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Zimbabwe: Drought-hit farmers improve agriculture through science

Zimbabwe: Drought-hit farmers improve agriculture through science

Zimbabwe

Researchers In Zimbabwe have produce corn varieties which are resistant to the heat to help farmers whose crops are destroyed by drought.

A Zimbabwean researcher at the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement,
Cosmos Magorokosho, is working on a new hybrid corn, able to withstand drought.

He leads a team that selects and crosses the varieties most efficient in water.

Basically, it means transferring genes from one plant to another type so that you create a new type that has the characteristics that you want.

As a result, a corn survived despite the high temperatures and low rainfall due to climate change and the El Nino phenomenon.

“Basically, it means transferring genes from one plant to another type so that you create a new type that has the characteristics that you want,”he said.

Zimbabwe formerly exported corn and was regarded as the granary of the Africa, but today, it imports two million tonnes per year.

This year the government declared a state of natural disaster, while two and a half million people depend on food aid.

“Compared to other seeds, these seeds survived the heat and dry conditions that we experienced and this resulted in a better harvest. I should have enough to last until February next year,” said Apollonia Marustvaka a farmer.

The researchers would like to spread the corn hybrid quickly in the regions most severely affected, but the process is delayed by the validation tests of the government. The scientists are already considering the conditions even more drastic in the future.

“The recent research says crops aren’t keeping up with the pace of climate change, and this is simply because as the environment warms, a crop will mature earlier than under the lower temperatures. When a crop matures earlier, it gives you less yield,” said Andy Challinor, professor at the University of Leeds.

This year, Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped government declared a “state of disaster” in most rural areas, with at least 2.4 million people in urgent need of food aid.

The Zimbabwe government is yet to approve the mass distribution of the seeds, but the product is already available at some agricultural outlets.

The drought is one of the key issues of the International Conference COP22 in
Morocco. Solutions such as this corn could give hope to farmers and to populations which are struggling to survive.

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