The Cotton Research Institute (CRI) is developing cotton seed varieties that are resistant to pest and diseases in the wake of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
Speaking at a cotton field day at Panmure Farm in Shamva recently, Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Cde Douglas Karoro said research-based technologies that promote viable and sustainable cotton production in Zimbabwe is key in increasing productivity levels.
In a speech read on his behalf by CRI director (crop research division) Dr Dumisani Kutywayo, Deputy Minister Karoro said free the input support programme for farmers by Government had a positive influence on productivity.
"Our desire is to improve national cotton production to levels that will surpass tobacco as an export earner and provide raw material for the local textile industry," he said. "The ministry has the responsibility to provide through CRI research-based technologies that promote viable and sustainable cotton production in the country. The research disciplines cover cotton agronomy, breeding, entomology and pathology.
"The activities are technology generation, variety release, provision of breeder seed and stakeholder capacity building. CRI has produced high-yielding and high quality cotton varieties from which Zimbabwe derives pride internationally.
"Challenges affecting the cotton industry in recent years cannot be attributed to poor performance of cotton varieties and related production technologies.
"The challenges could be due to poor agronomic practices, poor crop protection and poor financial returns compared to other cash crops. Volatility of cotton prices on the international market worsened the situation.
"Since independence CRI has released 18 cotton varieties which have the potential yield of 2 000 kilogrammes per hectare under dryland farming and more than 4 000 kilogrammes per hectare under irrigation."
CRI chief cotton research officer Mr Washington Mubvekeri said their current cotton variety development is focused on short- and medium-season varieties that respond to increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
"We have eight varieties at this farm, the other two are already existing and we use them to compare their performance in terms of draught, pest and disease resistance as well as earliness to maturity," said Mr Mubvekeri.
"Genotypes that exhibit tolerance to disease are considered in the development of high-performing varieties. The trial plot will be tested in the laboratories for fibre quality, fineness, strength and length.
"The research is carried out in the farmers' environment with close participation of the farmers and extension personnel."