Thursday, 12 November 2015

Sorghum crop simulation model for Ethiopia reaching fruition

Ethiopian and Australian scientists gathered at Melkassa Research Station in Adama (Ethiopia) to progress development of the “Sorghum Crop Model”, as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) - ACIAR supported research project between University of Queensland (UQ) and Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) “A targeted approach to sorghum improvement in moisture stress areas of Ethiopia”. During the week 26-30 October 2015 the group gathered to review and analyse data from field experiments designed to progress and test model development specifically for Ethiopian sorghum lines.

Source: Graeme Hammer

Pictured are Graeme Hammer, Erik van Oosterom, Alemu Tirfessa, Fikadu Getachew, Ian Broad, and Greg McLean undertaking “modelling field work”.  Alemu had completed a number of field experiments to measure precisely crop development for the local varieties and landraces. Fikadu had collated available climate and soils data for sorghum production zones in Ethiopia. These data were used to adapt the sorghum crop model to Ethiopian conditions. Crop modelling is used by plant breeders and agronomists to simulate growing various varieties of a crop in a range of conditions before proceeding to actual trials. Simulation results help identify which variety would perform best in each environment, and prioritise the breeding efforts and the field trials, resulting in faster genetic gains. The continuous drop in the cost of Information Technology (IT), and the increasing IT skills available in developing countries make simulation a practical tool now for researchers in these countries.

The meeting was a follow-up to visits by both EIAR scientists to the program in Australia earlier in the year. Alemu, leading the project at EIAR, had spent 4 months in Brisbane at the beginning of 2015. Fikadu, Agrometeorologist at EIAR, had visited the UQ lab for one month in August 2015. Both visits were facilitated by the staff of the ACIAR East Africa Office in Nairobi: their assistance was greatly appreciated by Alemu and Fikadu.

By the end of the week a functional prototype crop growth and development model for sorghum in Ethiopia was developed and is now undergoing further testing before use in the crop adaptation simulation studies planned as part of the research project.

 By Graeme Hammer (UQ) and Eric Huttner (ACIAR)

For more information about ACIAR's project on 'A targeted approach to sorghum improvement in Ethiopia' please visit the ACIAR website.

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