Earlier ACIAR-AusAID funded research in Afghanistan has tackled the problems of old, low-yielding, disease-susceptible varieties of wheat and maize, limited availability of improved seeds and other inputs, and poor crop management. During the previous phase, eight wheat and four maize varieties were released in-country. This phase will expand these efforts, introducing germplasm from CIMMYT-Mexico, ICARDA and CIMMYT-Zimbabwe among others. There will be a particular emphasis on drought-tolerant, rainfed varieties and, in the case of wheat, varieties with resistance to wheat rust Ug99. The project will involve the dissemination of improved seed and agronomic practices through innovative, multi-partner hubs, capacity building of Afghan scientists and NGO colleagues through training nationally and abroad, and a participatory annual crop workshop.
Variety release: Previous phases of the project contributed to release of two new wheat and two barley varieties during the period under report.
Wheat varieties introduction and testing: The project introduced a total of 13 new wheat trials and nurseries from CIMMYT, Mexico, ICARDA, CIMMYT-Africa and CIMMYT partnered programmes in Turkey. Another set of 24 yield evaluation trials were constituted using the material promoted from past year’s testing. A total of 2071 genotypes are being tested/ used in the wheat experiments under this project in Afghanistan at 10 locations. A total of 109 seed production plots are multiplying seed of promising new 36 wheat genotypes across several locations in the country. Results obtained from the national phenology nursery (NPhN) from last two years led us to start yield evaluation trials in four zones viz., east, north, central highland and south-west in Afghanistan from this year. This year NPhN is sown at ten locations.
Rust screening: A national wheat rust screening nursery with 143 entries is being tested at six locations in country and at Njoro in Kenya.
Maize varieties introduction and testing: A total of 33 open pollinated and 18 maize hybrids were tested in two separate trials last year. The superior genotypes would be promoted to second year of testing.
Research and demonstration activities: Four crop production management experiments have been sown at five locations. As part of new outreach activity of the current project, four informal information management hubs have been established at Kabul, Nangarhar, Herat and Mazar, the last three having been housed in government buildings in respective provinces. A total of 253 farmer field demonstrations have been distributed during the current season. To study socio-economic factors affecting technology adoption, the project is targeting to survey 100 farmers in each of the four provinces in the first year, 188 of which have been completed.
Capacity building: The second annual maize workshop was organized on April 9th and 10th. It was attended by 33 participants from several organizations and saw not only presentations of last year’s maize research programme but also formulation of this year’s programme. A total of three trainings were organized, one on statistical analysis and two on crop production management for wheat and maize. Project distributed about 700 wheat and maize research and extension posters/ leaflets/ technical bulletins to several stakeholders in the country. In addition to a project inception meeting in December 2012, a brainstorming was also organized in collaboration with General Directorate of Policy and Planning, MAIL on February 27th to strategize enhancing wheat production in country to achieve MAIL fixed target of seven million tonne wheat by 2022.
In year 13-14, the project continued to introduce, evaluate, and recommend for release, varieties of wheat and maize performing well in various areas of Afghanistan. This year, the 4 hubs established last year became fully operational and conducted a range of activities with the participation of farmers and extension workers: this is a major achievement in what remained a difficult place to do research for development.
Wheat: Three new wheat varieties were released during 2013. The project introduced a total of 13 new wheat trials and nurseries from CIMMYT, Mexico, ICARDA, CIMMYT-Africa and CIMMYT partnered programmes in Turkey. Another set of 24 yield evaluation trials were constituted using the material promoted from past year’s testing. A total of 2071 genotypes were tested/ used in the wheat experiments under this project in Afghanistan at 10 locations. A total of 109 seed production plots multiplied seed of 36 promising new wheat genotypes across several locations in the country. A national wheat rust screening nursery with 132 entries was tested at ten locations in country and at Njoro in Kenya. The nursery identified 47 elite wheat genotypes to be resistant to all the rusts. The Njoro nursery identified five genotypes to be resistant to all the races of yellow and stem rust prevalent at Njoro. Results obtained from the national phenology nursery (NPhN) from last two years led us to start yield evaluation trials in four zones viz., east, north, central highland and south-west in Afghanistan from 2012-13 season. This year NPhN was sown at seven locations and varieties across location took on an average 101 to 183 days to attain 50% flowering.
Maize: Twenty four open pollinated maize varieties and 18 maize hybrids were tested in two separate trials during 2013. The superior genotypes will be promoted to next year of testing, however effort will also be made to release maize hybrids on the basis of two years of testing.
Extension to farmers: Several crop production management experiments were conducted generating useful information which would be incorporated in production management recommendations. As part of new outreach activity of the current project, four informal information management hubs were established at Kabul, Nangarhar, Herat and Mazar, the last three being housed in government buildings in the respective provinces. One hundred and sixty farmer field demonstrations were distributed during 2012-13 crop season, but floods caused the failure of 40 out of the 43 maize demonstrations. To study socio-economic factors affecting technology adoption, the project surveyed 100 farmers in each of the four provinces in the first year.
Training: The second annual maize workshop was organized on April 9th and 10th, 2013. It was attended by 33 participants from several organizations and saw not only presentations of last year’s maize research programme but also formulation of this year’s programme. Similarly, the third annual wheat workshop was organized at Kabul from August 27th to 29th, 2013. The third annual maize workshop was organized on March 10th, 2014. It was attended by 32 participants. More than 15 trainings/ field days/ coordination meetings were organized; topics covered comprised: experimental designs, wheat rust management, Conservation Agriculture and crop production management for wheat and maize. The project distributed about 500 wheat and maize research and extension posters, leaflets and technical bulletins to several stakeholders in the country.
The project aims to sustainably increase wheat and maize production in Afghanistan through:
- the introduction of improved, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant varieties that are adapted to the diverse agro-climatic zones of Afghanistan,
- the dissemination of improved seed and agronomic practices through innovative, multi-partner hubs in 4 provinces,
- and the capacity building of Afghan scientists and NGO colleagues through training nationally and abroad.
Variety introduction, testing and release: Two new durum wheat varieties and three new maize hybrids were released for commercial cultivation during 2014. A total of 11 new wheat trials and nurseries brought in a total of 1150 new genotypes. A maize Open Pollinated trial introduced 30 maize lines and a hybrid trial brought in 18 new maize hybrid for further testing. During 2013-14, the project tested 2265 genotypes in 41 trials/ nurseries. 442 promising genotypes were promoted to next stage of testing during 2014-15 in seven Preliminary Yield Trials (PYT), 9 Advanced Yield Trials (AYT) and 7 National Uniformity Trials (NUT). Based on results from 2013-14 testing, a total of 75 promising genotypes from NUTs are being multiplied. National Phenology Nursery further confirmed the results obtained previously and yield evaluation trials are now conducted zone wise.
Wheat Rust diseases: National Rust Screening Nurseries (NRSN) tested 283 wheat accessions last year out of which 102 were found to be resistant to all prevalent rust races in the country. Screening conducted at Njoro, Kenya revealed 34 accessions to be resistant to all races utilized at Njoro. The new NRSN constituted for 2014-15 season will test 241 genotypes.
Crop management and agronomy: Results from 26 production management experiments optimised seed rate and sowing time for wheat, barley and maize. Project introduced several small farm machines, notable among them is animal drawn seed drill. The machine has become quite popular and efforts are being made for in country production of the same.
Outreach activities comprised of 493 farmer field demonstrations, six farmer trainings, 26 field days and three new extension bulletins. The project distributed over 1000 copies of extension messages among farmers/ extension workers in target provinces. In addition to reporting through CIMMYT Informa, project published four scientific and review articles on project work.
Socio-economics analysis: Analysis of the baseline survey revealed that though women fully controlled the livestock management portfolio, however the utilization or sales from livestock were totally in control of men.
Training: The project organised training on wheat rust management, the 4th annual wheat workshop and 3rd annual maize workshop attended by 137 participants from various organizations: the workshops are placing the Afghan researchers in charge of the research program. A total of 10 Afghan researchers were supported for participation in international/ regional conferences/ trainings.
Constraints include declining wheat certified seed production in the country which is about 35% less for 2014-15 compared to 2012-13. This decline is partly caused by a reduction in the purchase of seeds by the government.
Annual report 2016
Wheat: During the period under report, the project officially released 5 irrigated and 1 rainfed new wheat varieties. The varieties displayed an average superiority ranging from 7 to 40% over checks during the testing period in Afghanistan. To continue the pipeline of testing, the project introduced 1458 new wheat lines in 13 trials/ nurseries from CIMMYT, Mexico and tested a total of 2290 genotypes in 39 trials/ nurseries across 14 locations. A total of 460 wheat genotypes with suitable performance were promoted to next stage of testing. National Rust Screening Nursery tested 271 genotypes at ten locations and 135 lines were found resistant at all the locations. Project demonstrated 69 new lines through 76 demonstration plots at research farms of the Agricultural Research Institute of Afghanistan (ARIA). Additionally, improved varieties were demonstrated on 540 farmer fields. Provincial average yield in these demonstration plots ranged from a low of 2.86 to a high of 7.66 tonnes per ha compared to farmer practice average of 1.94 tonnes/ ha to 4.52 tonnes/ha.
Maize: Two maize Open Pollinated (OP) trials and three hybrid trials tested a total of 60 OP lines and 133 hybrids. Project organised the 5th Annual maize workshop at Kabul. A total of 44 participants belonging to ARIA, CIMMYT and ACIAR attended.
Agronomy research and training: Production management experiments optimized several factors of crop production viz., winter wheat sowing time in North (Nov. 11th to 20th), South West (Nov 25th to Dec 04th), spring wheat sowing time in North (Nov. 15th to 25th), West (Nov. 5th to 15th), South (Dec 1st to 10th), East (Nov 15th to 25th), optimum sowing time for rainfed wheat in North (Nov. 15 to 25th), West (Dec 6th to 20th), seed rate for rainfed wheat (70 to 80 Kg/ha), and maize sowing time for North (June 1st to 15th) and Centre (May 1st to 15th).
A total of 25 Afghan researchers were sent abroad to attend various training programmes and conferences. Research results showed that the number of research experiments rejected due to their high Coefficient of Variation has come down from 18% in 2012-13 to 1.5% in 2014-15 clearly indicating an improved ARIA capacity to conduct yield trials.
Extension and dissemination activities: 14 field days, 7 coordination meetings and 7 trainings organised in the four hubs benefited 1160 participants. Project distributed about 4100 copies of various extension messages in different meetings and training programmes of the country. The printed messages covered topics ranging from seed selection, weed management, irrigation scheduling to several other production factors like sowing time, fertilizer application and sowing method. Line sowing of wheat has been shown to increase yield by 20 to 25% in experimental plots. Project has imported seed drills for each hub and effort will be made to sow all 2016-17 demonstrations in line. Project has started an impact assessment survey in four provinces. Project will sample the varieties grown by the surveyed farmers. Sixty treatment and 90 control farmers will be contacted in each province.
Due to the reduced rainfall in the 2014-15 growing season Afghanistan’s wheat production declined 13% to 4.7 million tonnes in 2015 compared to 5.4 million tonnes of 2014.