The course gave researchers and technicians insights into variety testing. This was particularly relevant for Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, as they don’t have breeding programs and depend on CIMMYT’s regional trials to identify maize germplasm adapted to their countries. The participants were very eager to learn how to design, implement, and analyze mother-baby trials, which evaluate new maize varieties with farming communities. The mother trial is grown in the center of the community and contains 12-20 new and old varieties, and farmers grow subsets of four varieties each in baby trials in their own fields, using their own management practices. At harvest, they provide feedback about the new varieties, referring to traits that are important to them such as yield, taste, or storage pest resistance.
“I wish to thank CIMMYT for conducting the course,” said Similo Mavimbela, a senior research officer from the DARSS. “It is my feeling that the participants benefited from the expertise of CIMMYT and gained better understanding of the experimental designs. We are now going to employ the most relevant design for different experiments and save time and space. We also have better understanding of the MBTs approach to implement on-farm trials. With support from FAO, we will be implementing the on-farm trial this season so skills obtained from this course will be put to good use.” Mavimbela added that they had also learnt how to use Fieldbook software to prepare seed, produce seed labels, design trials, and analyze data.
CIMMYT thanks the course organizers and resource persons Cinisani Tfwala, Abraham Cutter Dlamini, Hanson Hlophe, Thembinkosi Gumedze, and Similo Mavimbela from the DARSS, Michael Connelly of FAO-Swaziland, and CIMMYT’s Peter Setimela, Cosmos Magorokosho, Jill Cairns, Sebastian Mawere, and Simba Chisoro.