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Seed Co completes US$4 million lab

Seed Co Zimbabwe has completed the construction of its US$4 million laboratory that is designed to keep pace with latest farming, climatic and environmental demands.

Climate change is forcing many seed producers to innovative, particularly in producing new seed varieties.

Over the years, Seed Co has managed to produce drought-tolerant and early maturing seeds.

The company’s managing director, Mr Denias Zaranyika, told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development last week that continuous research and investment in agriculture will strengthen the country’s food security status.  “We have made some significant investments in our research and development to ensure that we keep pace with climatic and environmental demands that farmers may face in their operations.

“It is in this respect that we opened a new US$ 4 million laboratory at Rattray Arnold Station (along Shamva Road) that enhances our breeding process through Molecular Marker Assisted selection, to make new inbred lines using Double Haploid Technology and advanced plant pathology.

“Among other benefits, that laboratory is now speeding up the process of releasing new varieties – for example, from 15 to eight years – ensuring that farmers now get new varieties in almost real time.

“It is also enabling us to increase breeding gains (high yield in terms of improvements of existing varieties); breed for improved genetic quality of seed, which leads increased yield for farmers; and increasing precision in breeding, leading to the development of world-class varieties,” said Mr Zaranyika.

Seed Co says the new research laboratory will result in cost savings since it now has the expertise that was previously outsourced. It is also believed that the laboratory will result in new seed varieties that improve yields and have complimentary traits such as heat-and disease tolerance and fast dry down rates.

According to Mr Zaranyika, climate change has presented the company with an opportunity to commission new research into breeding, production and extension support.

There has been repeated encouragement for farmers to shift from reliance on rain-fed agriculture to new irrigation techniques.

Researchers are increasingly resorting to developing seed varieties that can survive freak weather conditions such as drought and floods.

Experts say climate change and rainfall patterns could lead to food price increases of between 3 percent and 84 percent by 2050.

Seed Co, which was established in 1940, mainly relies on trade in quality seeds and technology across Africa.

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