THE Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI-Ilonga Centre) has researched and invented at least three new sunflower hybrid seed varieties, scheduled for release to users in October this year.
The vital development aims at improving production and productivity of the most important economic crop which is cultivated in all regions in the country except Dar es Salaam.
The Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) in 2016 showed sunflower was the most likely subsector to yield investable opportunities in Tanzania.
But unfortunately, the country has yet to reap economic fortunes the sub-sector offers due to several factors, including lack of hybrid seed varieties as in most places farmers were reported to use recycled seeds
Possible factors likely to propel high production of sunflower in the future include the yield potential and superior agronomic characteristics of sunflower, a need for alternative crops in some areas of the country, excessive crushing capacity and increased demand for edible oils as well as health benefits of sunflower oil.
Speaking during an interview with this reporter, National Coordinator for Sunflower Research, Dr Frank Reuben, said TARI-ILO 2019 and TARI-NA 2019, the new seeds, had high yield of grains and oil, resistant to pests and diseases, but also were tolerant to drought.
"These are appropriate seed varieties for small-scale and large-scale farmers. The reason is that, these seeds allow farmers to produce and distribute them in quality declared seed (QDS) class within their farming community under the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI) supervision,” Dr Reuben added.
He expressed that the TOSCI was working round the clock to ensure the varieties were known, accessible and used professionally by end users.
He noted that the potential for the expansion of sunflower in Tanzania was good and land was suitable for growing sunflower. He added that sunflower production in the country had the potential for long-term expansion.
"There is a great wealth of unexplored genetic material for use in improving sunflower,” he said.
As per the 2020 map by sunflower production through atlasbig.comshows Ukraine, Russian Federation, Argentina, China, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Hungary, United States of America, France and Tanzania have been named the countries with high production and yield as well as sunflower harvested areas. The source also ranks Tanzania as the leading sunflower producer in Africa.
Seed production at TARI-Ilonga also involves rouging, pollination and seed stocks maintenance. The seed stock maintenance increases the seed quantity and maintains precisely the specific characteristics of the parent stocks used in seed production.
"A basic requirement in the increase of parental stocks is familiarity with their plant types so that a typical plant can be eliminated entirely. The rouging programme involves the removal of off type plants which often are difficult to identify positively because of the normal variation in the variety. Thus, TARI-Ilonga has well-established producers for the production of quality seed varieties,” Dr Reuben said.