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Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials

For seed producers in Africa, there are only a limited number of varieties to multiply and distribute to local farmers. This leaves farmers with few options when trying to maximize yields in their local agro-ecological setting. Additionally, plant breeders, both public and private, do not have the financial resources to test their commercial varieties across the many growing zones of Africa to identify potential new markets.

The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) partners with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to implement the first third-party testing of soybean in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial Program ‘fast-tracks’ the introduction and testing of commercial soybean varieties in order to provide local seed companies and farmers access to a broader selection of seed than is currently available.

The SIL-SFSA-IITA-AATF team leverages: its role as an independent third party; their unique access to international, regional, and national supplies of high yielding disease resistant germplasm; and their experience to operate high-quality formal trials.  Third-party testing provides the degree of transparency that smallholder farmers need to access truly improved seeds that perform in their local environments. Independent and transparent trialing 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 trialing platform provides testing and registration of modern varieties and establishes distribution systems for quality seed in Africa. The Pan-African Trial currently provides a total of 38 soybean varieties from the Soybean Innovation Lab’s research and private sector partners across Africa and in Brazil, and from the US collection for variety trial evaluation.  To date varieties are under trial: in a pre-trial in Malawi (3 locations) during the last two years; for the last two years in Mali (1 location); for the last three years in Kenya (3 locations); and starting in 2018 in nine locations in Malawi.

The trial program involves additional features beyond seed procurement and distribution and the conduct of randomized trials of new commercial varieties.  Trials include: training of technical staff; data collection, cleaning, analysis and reporting; extension field days and associated materials; communications and promotions; and legal support for licensing and royalty payments.

To learn more about the soybean trial results or to establish a Pan-African Soybean Trial in your country, contact SIL at soybeaninnovationlab@illinois.edu.