Biotech Updates

New Maize Varieties and New Business Models in Malawi

July 9, 2010

After facing crop failure in the recent years, Malawi farmers are now putting their hope on two drought tolerant maize varieties: ZM 309 and ZM 523. These varieties were developed especially for the dry areas and infertile soils of Malawi through the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project of International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Malawi's Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and the Chitedze Research Station.

Along side the development of new varieties to cope up with the changing environment, the seed companies are also innovating their business model. For instance, the Seed Co. Malawi, a leading southern African seed company, is offering ZM 309 and ZM 523 as open pollinated varieties (OPVs), which can be saved from one season and can still be planted after three subsequent seasons without affecting yield and other favorable traits. OPVs are different from other commercially available hybrids which must be bought and sown fresh every season or else the performance of the crops would decrease.

"The climate is changing, rainfall is decreasing and the weather is now dictating which varieties farmers grow and in turn which varieties seed companies produce," says Dellings Phiri, Seed Co. Malawi general manager.

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