Blog post by Dr Asnake Fikre, Director, Crops Research, EIAR
The legume industry in Ethiopia is significantly and increasingly influencing the agricultural system. Now with an area of some 1.8 million ha and production volume more than 2.7 million MT annually it contributes significant volume globally. The national pulse average reached about 1.5t/ha from less than a ton, a decade ago. Legumes are major source of income, nutrient, farm fertilization and farming system sustainability to about 8.5 million (~70% of all) small holder agrarian households in Ethiopia
In the last three to four decades, the critical legume focused research programs, particularity with CGIAR centers has been instrumental in capacitating the Ethiopian national research system responding to development and other emerging demands in the country.
A long standing research partnership between the Ethiopian Research System and the CGIAR centers namely ICARDA, ICRISAT and CIAT along with other stakeholder has proved as a boom for the legume industry which is expressed as productivity, production, quality and marketability.
The four pillars of development were: food and nutrition, export revenues, agro industry and environmental sustainability (sustainable cropping system) objectives. As a result of all those interactions tens of thousands germplasm lines have been deployed and evaluated against the challenges and development objectives. We have been able to release more than 160 varieties of food legumes holding unique trait of interest preferred by the farmers, the market and other beneficiaries. Enabling the infrastructure and human resource capacities of NARS was enormous.
The market advantage of legumes is pronounced compared to other field crops that derived breeding efforts on traits of economic values and adaptability. Among major legumes faba bean, field pea, chickpea, haricot bean, grasspea, soybean and lentil play overwhelming role in the system.
Economic traits includes: seed size in faba bean, lentil and chickpea; seed color in faba bean, chickpea, field pea and haricot bean; nutritional quality parameters in lentil, soybean, haricot bean and grasspea. Along with desired traits development the lines are also been backed by favorable genes for tolerance against the bio-threats of rust (Uromyces cicer-arietini ) in lentil, bean stem maggot in haricot bean, fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum fsp ciceris ) and ascochyta blight (Ascochyta rabiei ) in chickpea, chocolate spot (Botrytis fabae) in faba bean. The crossing programs work in assemblage of favorable genes that confers adaptability as well as desirable grain produce quality attainment, which in combination with best crop management practices has warranted intensification with a magnitude ranging 3 to 5 tons/ha in well adaptation corridors; while the national average is about 1.5t/ha from less than a ton a decade ago.
In the course of the partnership, productivity has tripled, seed size (quality) has been increased by three-four folds and marketability improved manifolds. These improved produce gains is valued between USD 2000 to 4000 per hectare benefits commonly per household. This in turn has stimulated best production practices in the legume farm community. However, yet agro-mechanization, agro-processing, and value added product development areas that needs to be focused and filled in.
Dr Asnake Fikre is Senior Legume Breeder and Director of Crops Research Directorate at Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. He is also member of the Grain Legumes Steering Committee
Image Source: GCP Blog