A range of agronomic experiments across East and West Africa are helping to verify and demonstrate the most effective ways to improve wheat production. Researchers from the SARD‑SC project conducted the experiments in Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe.
In Nigeria, researchers examined the effects of withholding water during the key growth stages of four bread wheat varieties. The experiments were conducted at the Kadawa research outstation of the Institute for Agricultural Research. Results indicated that irrigating at all growth stages resulted in a higher yield when compared to withholding water at any of the growth stages, such as the 'jointing' or 'booting' stages.
In Ethiopia, a demonstration project showed farmers conservation agriculture practices that generated a wheat yield at least comparable to conventional systems. Conservation agriculture – the practice of leaving crop residue in the field to improve soil fertility and retain water – is a proven means of raising production in the dry areas, cost-effectively balancing yields, conserving resources, and increasing efficiency.
Good results were even recorded during the initial year of the demonstration, with the benefit expected to increase progressively over subsequent years.
Different crop rotation systems were also demonstrated to Ethiopian wheat farmers. The experiments showed that growing wheat following faba bean or mustard crops increased yields when compared to mono-cropping. Yield increases of 20% following faba beans and 25% after mustard were recorded.
In Sudan, researchers verified and demonstrated a range of improved practices to wheat farmers, including using integrated pest management techniques, and updating the sowing date and seeding rate. Conclusions on seed and fertilization rates, however, still need to be confirmed through on‑farm validation.
Researchers in Sudan are also working on producing a value chain analysis for wheat production, marketing, and consumption systems.
In Zimbabwe, an experiment to determine the optimum fertilizer rate for four rain‑fed wheat varieties was conducted at five sites. Results from the first year showed yield increases from a fertilizer rate of between 0 and 400 kg/ha. Repeat trials are planned for more dependable results.