Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials

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The Soybean Innovation Lab partners with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture to implement the first third-party testing of soybean in Sub-Saharan Africa—more precisely, coordinated soybean variety tests across several countries.

Third-party testing provides the degree of transparency that smallholder farmers need to access truly improved seeds that perform in their local environments. It is the foundation for creating a verified, reliable and transparent seed system, yet it has been a critical missing component in African agricultural development.

The Soybean Innovation Lab contributes to the increased productivity of smallholder soy farmers by addressing improved varieties, supporting local best production practices, enhancing processing technologies, and promoting development of the soy value chain.

The research team is using the Syngenta Foundation’s trialing platform, known as Seeds2B, which began to evaluate tomato and sunflower seed varieties in 2013. Soybean Innovation Lab researchers Brian Diers and Randall Nelson, from the University of Illinois, approached the Syngenta Foundation to include soybean in the Seeds2B trialing platform.

The Seeds2B platform provides testing and registration of modern varieties and establishes distribution systems for quality seed in Africa. Diers and Nelson provided a total of 38 soybean varieties from the Soybean Innovation Lab’s research and private sector partners across Africa and in Brazil for entry in the variety trial evaluation. 

Varieties were tested in a pre-trial in Malawi over the 2014/15 winter season, and pre-testing began in 2014 in Kenya. The full variety trial evaluation were implemented in 2016 in three regional tests: one in Kenya, one in Senegal and Mali, and one in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Varieties were grown in up to six locations in each region with three replications in each location. Breeder rights are protected in the evaluations. The Soybean Innovation Lab and Syngenta Foundation are focused on repeating the trials in the current locations, including more varieties from interested partners, and expanding testing sites and countries.

To learn more about the soybean trial results, contact the Soybean Innovation Lab at soybeainnovationlab@illinois.edu.