Drought and heat tolerant crops show resilience

A research team from the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences (FHAS) has reached a major milestone in a study under the auspices of the “Evolution of Stress Tolerant Orphan Legumes for use in Dry Land Farming Systems Across Sub-Sahara Africa and India” (STOL). The research falls within the Promoting India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation programme, funded by the Kirkhouse Trust SCIO.

The team conducted research and tests on horsegram, moth bean, dolichos, marama bean, mung bean and cowpea for their heat and drought tolerance qualities and nutritional value which showed great results. During a recent visit to the Bagani Research Station in the Kavango East Region, Prof Percy Chimwamurombe from FHAS, said that the field conditions were promising with a germination rate of 80-90% for all crops at the station, with the exception of the moth bean.

“The moth bean may have strict soil and other environmental requirements for it to germinate, of which only a few accessions underwent this process. This is the second year we observed this trend. Going forward we will not use the accessions which failed to germinate during the trial,” he explained.

The project officially took flight in 2019 with the aim to multiply approximately 50 accessions of each of the crops before providing them to trail sites throughout hot and dry regions within Africa and India. The trials will then determine which crops have the potential to combat the effects of climate change since they are drought tolerant.

“The reality of climate leading to drought and extreme heat conditions are no longer a debatable matter, but an issue that needs to be addressed with strategic coping mechanisms, such as developing resilient crops,” Prof Chimwamurombe elaborated.

In addition, research will be able to conclude which crops are fit for human consumption, animal feed and have the ability to stabilise land against degradation.
“The crops hold the capacity to enhance soil fertility, meaning farmers will be advised to abstain from using chemical fertilisers that are environmentally unfriendly, and other chemical agents that might aid in soil degradation in the long term,” he added.

All the STOL crops have a long history of safe use for both human consumption and animal feed. Some of them, such as the mung bean, are already being imported and sold in local supermarkets.

Date: 
Friday, April 16, 2021
for Month: 
April, 2021

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