Makerere breeds sweet sorghum variety for food and Bio fuel production
Farmers in Uganda will soon have a sweet sorghum variety that is high yielding with short maturity period and sweet stalks for the production of food and molasses for brewing waragi. Researchers at the Makerere University College of Agricultural and environmental sciences embarked on this project in 2011 with the aim of addressing the problem of food security and diversifying farmer’s income.
The breeding of resistant varieties is part of the effort by the university to mitigate the impact of climate change and enhance crop production for value added use so that farmers change from food security crops to income generation.
Principal Investigator Assoc. Prof. Patrick Okori said besides increasing food production, the new variety will help sugar companies in the region to concentrate on sugar production to minimize shortfalls and at the same time act as a source of income for farmers.
"We have produced a special variety called sweet sorghum for waragi to substitute molasses so that we relieve sugar cane industries from using sugarcanes to produce molasses. We want Kakira in Jinja to introduce sweet sorghum for syrup, molasses and animal feeds", Assoc. Prof. Patrick Okori said.” Countries like Brazil have used the same technique to get ethanol for fuel and diversified crop residue for animal feeding.
Unlike sugar cane that takes 24 months to mature, the sweet sorghum has a short maturity period of four months hence utilizes less water, fertilizers and efficient labor for improved yields. The varieties yield seven times the available varieties.
The sweet sorghum was acquired by Mumias Sugar Corporation of Kenya and released to researchers for further development for adoption in the entire region. The project is part of the Millennium Science Initiative Project on Cereal Improvement being tested in Ugandan Eastern districts of Serere, Bukedea and Kumi . 15 good varieties for confectionary were released to a group of 2500 farmers involved in the research who selected 4 varieties. According to Dr. Okori the varieties chosen by farmers were basically for food but the study objectives transcend to include value addition.
He said Farmers selection was based on tallness and convenience to harvest the sorghum and the color for mixing with cassava. The white sorghum was high yielding but farmers preferred the red one because a lot of the white sorghum is lost to birds in the field and therefore require large scale production.
One of the successful farmer groups involved in this research is the People Knowledge Women Innovation of 2500 people that grew from women group. 70% of the members are women and 30% men who have managed to form a cooperative to engage in research for more than 15 years.
The varieties are also being tested in Western Kenya in Kisumu and Mombasa under extreme weather conditions for final testing before releasing them to the public. Conditions for the release of new varieties include planting for three seasons in different environments and testing of the variety by the consumers. In this project, farmers have already tested the variety. The variety is to be taken to food scientists for testing.