ZIMBABWE – ZimbaSeed, a subsidiary of the Zambia Seed Company and a local seed variety producer plans to introduce its new drought-resistant maize varieties on the market before the onset of the summer cropping season at a time when the country is bracing for the El Nino weather pattern.
The new varieties being introduced to the market are ZMS405, an early maturing variety that takes about 130 days to mature, and ZMS623, a medium maturity variety that takes about 138 to 145 days.
Speaking in an interview with The Herald, Mr. Maxwell Mataka, the operations manager of ZimbaSeed said that the exemptional varieties were on trial last season and will be commercially rolled out to farmers, adding to the already existing three varieties from the firm.
He believes the drought-tolerant varieties will help mitigate the adverse impact of climate change-induced adverse weather conditions while ensuring better yields in light of the looming ElNino weather pattern in the next season.
This comes after the government rolled out planning prices for strategic commodities such as maize and traditional grains for the 2023/24 summer season while preparing for the El Nino weather pattern.
However, for Mr. Mataka, the country is expecting normal to below-normal rainfall and requires varieties that are drought-tolerant.
“As ZimbaSeed, we have two varieties, which we believe are better even with low rainfall and will be on the market this year.” Zimbabwe is likely to experience a drought in the next season due to El Nino climate phenomena already threatening higher food prices and stoking inflation,” Mataka noted.
Getting ready for El Nino
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in July declared the start of the devastating climate phenomenon, warning its return would lead to rising global temperatures and extreme weather conditions.
The UN weather agency estimated there is a 90 percent probability of the El Niño event persisting through the second half of the year and it is expected to be “at least moderate strength.”
To mitigate the risk, the Government is scaling up the adoption of drought-tolerant crop varieties, smart agriculture, and farming practices, investment in early warning systems, adoption of agriculture insurance, provisioning for the distribution of food to vulnerable households, provision of animal health support and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes.
Mr Mataka said drought-tolerant maize varieties have proved effective since they were introduced in Zimbabwe.
During the trial run for the anticipated varieties, the company contracted 250 farmers who achieved average yields of four tonnes per hectare, way above one tonne normally produced by smallholder farmers, said Mr Mataka.
He added that the Government has already warned that the forecasted drier conditions will impact negatively on agricultural output and compromise on food security of the country.
As a result, the Government has given the green light to private companies to import maize duty-free as a measure to ensure potential low yields as a result of drought will not lead to shortages.
For Mr. Mataka, being operational for over 60 years in Zambia “ZamSeed is an icon to tap into in expertise needed to produce the seed that suits the country’s requirements.
In addition, the variety seed producer is backed by decades of research and experience across sub-Saharan Africa with varieties that bring higher yields, drought tolerance, and disease resistance to build success for farmers and agriculture nationwide that has been built by their parent company ZamSeed.