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Grain value chain/Ethiopia - Research reveals indigenous crop varieties face danger

19 October 2015

Due to little attention given to indigenous crop varieties including teff, wheat and barley in favor of improved seed varieties, the indigenous crops are facing a serious threat of extinction, a collaborative research output revealed. The research output jointly conducted by the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) and the International Biodiversity Institute (IBI) proved that the local varieties have better yields and productivity. Director General of EBI disclosed that after the research, local varieties are found to be endangered due to the expansion of improved varieties; however, the local ones are better and highly productive. He furthermore emphasized that attention should be placed on natural variety, whereas EBI has already prepared a package to safeguard the endangered species. The EBI researchers carried out an assessment in the past harvest season to identify the selection of seeds both from the improved types and the natural ones. Hence, behavioral analyses have been conducted on 12 natural varieties including Kuncho improved variety and other blended seed types. However, the assessment result has shown that there are no differences in both varieties particularly in the length, biomass as well as nutrient contents. The statistical analysis proved that the natural variety is not less than the improved one despite the latter one being regarded as being the best variety. On the same research, it was found out that the natural variety has given 22 quintals of produce while the improved one gave only 21 quintals of produce. Apart from the joint assessment, the International Biodiversity Institute has carried out its own separate research on durum wheat along with an Italian University, Scoula Santa Ana. IBI Country Representative said that the local varieties of the durum wheat are superior in several traits, including yield, biomass yield and resistance of pests compared to the improved varieties. This is the result of greater adaptation to the environment in which the varieties were tested. Ethiopian farmers participating in the experiments clearly showed a positive attitude towards their varieties, disclosed the IBI’s country representative. Moreover, he highlighted that the local farmers' varieties are better adapted to prevalent conditions in Ethiopia. It was adviced to generate additional benefits if the untapped potential of durum wheat could be considered in crop improvement programs of the country. Though Teff (eragrostis tef) originated and is consumed much in Ethiopia, it is also getting the attention of the outside. The research indicated that, ancient crops have the potential to address food and nutrition security throughout the developing world.



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