Soybean farmers in the country are set to benefit from a wide range of new soybean varieties currently on trial in Lilongwe and Kasungu.
This follows the pan-African soybean variety trials being conducted at Chitedze Research Station and Alliance One Chilange Farm in Lilongwe and Kasungu, respectively.
The trials come against the backdrop of many farmers in sub-Saharan Africa region, including Malawi, not having a wide range of soy seed to choose from to maximise their yields in their agro-ecological settings.
To address this, 36 different varieties of soybean seed are on trial to select the best five based on qualities such as yield rate, disease resistance, grain size and resilience to harsh weather.
The trials are being spearheaded by Soybean Innovation Laboratory (SIL) under the Feed the Future.
“Farmers in the country would like to have a variety of seed available for them to choose from,” said Peter Goldsmith, principal investigator for SIL during a field day in Kasungu on Tuesday.
“This is why we came up with the idea of bringing in new varieties and test them in their [farmers] local environments for them to choose the ones that perform well in accordance to their respective environments.”
But he said all trials in all entry points are being conducted under an exact manner.
Goldsmith said research in the soybean field has proven that the crop is good, but the question remains on how to bring in new varieties.
“It is important that farmers use high quality certified and properly stored soybean seeds because when planted, farmers will know that the seed will germinate and produce high yields, thereby making them successful farmers,” he said.
Goldsmith cautioned farmers against using recycled seed, saying it is inexpensive in the short run but expensive in the long run.
“These quality seeds are expensive but you get so many yields and the seeds pay for themselves,” he said.
One of the farmers, Phillip Chasowa from Traditional Authority (T/A) Kaomba in Kasungu, said yield from recycled seeds is low and poses a risk of being infested with pests.
“We have seen different varieties of soy seed with different characteristics ranging from yield, plant size and period of maturity.
“I would urge farmers to choose the soy seed that will suit well in our different environments, especially during this time we are affected by climate change,” he said.
Some of the other partners in the trials include the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (Aatf) in Malawi, ExAgris Africa Limited and Limbe Leaf Tobacco Malawi Limited.