The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) has released a new high yielding simsim variety to farmers. The variety, sesim-2, has been undergoing trials for the last five years, by scientists and farmers.
Many farmers who have planted the new variety said it was good and has bigger seeds. It is purple. Another variety, sesim-1 was released last year.
Mr. Walter Anyanga, a sim sim breeder at Serere Agricultural and Animal Production Research Institute (SAARI) in Soroti, said the new varieties would improve sim sim yields in the country.
Uganda produces 93,000 metric tonnes of sim sim a year, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). However, it has enormous untapped sim sim potential production that can supply cooking oil if refined, to the entire southern Africa region. The oil seeds processing industry too,is virtually an unexploited investment potential. Most farmers are currently growing SERRA and S varieties, which were released in the 1970s. Since then the political turmoil throughout the 1980s to the 90s in the country crippled further research into improving the simsim varieties. Teso area, where the sim sim research is based has also been generally unstable due to civil strife and Karimojong cattle rustlers' incursions into the region. Anyanga said that the sesim-2, unlike the ordinary varieties is resistant to most sim sim pests and diseases. He also said that it was drought-resistant, quick maturing and does not easily bend due to wind. Sesim-2 does not shatter in the garden when mature like the ordinary varieties. It takes about 3.5months to mature and has higher oil content per seed of up to 40%, unlike the ordinary varieties with about 20% oil. It has a higher post-harvest life.
Unlike the ordinary cultivators who produce about 300kg per hectare, Sesim-2 yields about 800kg/hectare. Uganda's average sim sim yield per hectare is about 500kg,according to FAO. Many farmers are using the broadcast way of sowing. But scientists say they are to embark on a major campaign to educate farmers on modern sim sim planting techniques.
Anyanga said that under the new sim sim improvement strategy, a number of interventions have been developed against diseases and pests that frustrate its yields. He said that leaf spots, fusarium wilt and powdery mildew were the most common diseases threatening sim sim growing in Uganda. He added that the diseases, which are caused by fungus, are spread throughout the sim sim growing areas.
He explained that fusarium wilt attacks the stem and the plant starts drying up. The powdery mildew forms a white-like fungal cover on the leaf, which suffocates the plant's ability to manufacture food. This leads to the death of the plant.
Important insects and pests to the sim sim include the gallmidge, webworms and aphids. The aphids suck sap from the plant, and the plant starts drying up, while the gall midge attacks during the flowering stage. It lays its eggs inside the flowers and the larvae feeds on the flowers.
This halts the formation of seeds and the flower falls off. Anyanga said that SAARI in close collaboration with Investment in Development Export Agriculture.
other research organisations in east and southern Africa are carrying out further research on the improvement of the simsim varieties in the region.