Climate Change, Plant Breeders’ Biggest Challenge

Climate change is the biggest challenge to plant breeders who have to deal with a variety of drought resistant seeds to improve food security in the country, a plant breeding academic, Professor Pangirai Tongoona has said.

Speaking at the Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association symposium on Thursday, Professor Tongoona said farmers need to learn the new game to advance and improve the timing and type of seeds to use.

“A lot has changed over the period, the game has changed and is advancing faster. It calls for more innovations for farmers to improve,

“Climate change is the biggest problem farmers face and plant breeders should breed a variety of seeds including drought resistance ones,

“Plant breeders need to work hard for food security, only a handful of countries in Africa are food secure however Zimbabwe has the largest adoption of improved seed up to 80-90%,” said Tongoona.

Managing Director of SeedCo, Denias Zaranyika concurred with Tongoona saying with Zimbabwe’s population expected to grow to approximately 20 million by 2032, the food production will need to move in tandem with this growth.

“Concerted efforts from Plant Breeders supported by strong Agronomy and ,extension are required if food security is to be assured,

“Plant breeding is therefore one of our most important weapons that we as humans wield to ensure our survival through development of newer,higher yielding, disease and drought tolerant cultivars,

“Currently, lack of quality and improved seed varieties has been sighted as a major hindrance to food and nutrition security within the region, with only a handful of countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa region being food secure,” said Zaranyika.

Zimbabwe Seed Trade Association (ZSTA )is spearheading the development of harmonized seed trade regulations for COMESA and SADC member States so as to facilitate quality seed movement within the region. This effort allows the work of Plant Breeders to be realized across the region and hence improve food security.

Zaranyika went on to say as an industry, seed producers will continue working on protecting vulnerable farmers against dumping of inferior seeds and unfair trade practices, which may come as a result of the abuse of the harmonized seed regulations.

“ZSTA will therefore continue to support Plant Breeders in their quest to finding solutions to the challenges facing African farmers that include stress (drought, heat, disease and pest) tolerant varieties, high performance varieties and highly and widely adaptable varieties,

“Because Plant Breeding is long term and takes a lot of effort and resources (time and finance), ZSTA strongly believes that the work of Plant Breeders needs to be protected just as most businesses do in protecting their most valuable assets through insurance,

“The invaluable efforts of our Plant Breeders therefore need to be protected through strong Intellectual Property (IP) Rights. ZSTA will continue to support the enactment, review and implementation of legislation that protects the work of our Plant Breeders,” he added.

Zaranyika emphasized that ZSTA will also support up-skilling in the Plant Breeding fraternity through supporting both on and off-the job training such as PhD, MSc.

As new tools continue to emerge, Plant Breeders also need to be exposed to these new breeding techniques.

 

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