Agricane has recently added low altitude crop suitability research to their portfolio. This program commenced in 2021 and was mainly centered around soyabean variety research for the Shire Valley of Malawi, initially. Managed by Bruce Carruthers and Callum Saunders, this program has expanded in size and crop diversity, through close co-operation with Soyabean Innovation Lab (SIL) and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Crops include soyabean, sorghum, sesame seed, millet, chick-peas, pigeon-peas and groundnuts. This program also involves a seed multiplication phase and this facet involves interest in both commercial cotton and edible bean production.
The objective of this research is to short list crops that can be produced under irrigation, in the areas designated by the Shire Valley Transfer Program (SVTP). The government of Malawi (GoM) through the Ministry of Agriculture with support from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development, and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is implementing the SVTP, a 14-year program designed to boost socio-economic development through irrigation of large tracts of land in Southern Malawi. This program is in an advanced stage of development and expects to distribute irrigation water in 2025.
The goal is to be able to present a list of acceptable, viable crops that can be grown under irrigation in the dry season with a second rainfed crop produced in rotation. Key factors being considered for crop choices are social acceptance, climate, soil, environment and market suitability, ease of production, yield ability, and all crops must result in a positive margin for the farmer, whether consumed directly or sold fresh or for onward processing.
This program intends to educate Extension Officers (EO’s) on site and once trained, second these staff into the rapidly growing SVTP program as it unfolds. EO’s are seen as pivotal to the success of fulfilling these goals.