Tanzania’s current average rice yield is only 1.8 tons per hectare due to low-yielding varieties with a long maturity duration and susceptibility to diseases.
Tanzanian rice farmers can however now boost rice production by two to three times with the release of two new high-yielding varieties - IR05N 221 (named Komboka, meaning be liberated) and IR03A 262 (named Tai, meaning eagle). After extensive evaluation and screening across the country since 2008, farmers chose the two varieties for their promising yield potential of 6.5–7 and 7.5 tons per hectare, respectively.
These new varieties also possess grain quality that meets the needs and preferences of farmers and consumers in Tanzania – essential to ensuring their adoption and marketability.
“Komboka is strongly desired for its aroma, which is highly regarded by farmers and consumers, and therefore it is very marketable. Tai, on the other hand, is nonaromatic, but has strong potential in parts of the country where aroma is less important.” says Dr. Zakaria Kanyeka of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which led the development of the varieties in collaboration with the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (ARI)-KATRIN.
Komboka and Tai are also highly preferred by farmers for their long, slender, and translucent grains, and soft post-cooking texture, even after overnight storage. Both varieties can be grown twice a year – during the rainy season from January to June and during the dry season from August to December. Compared with a popular rice variety in Tanzania, SARO 5 (TXD 306), they ripen faster by 5–7 days (Komboka) and 7–14 days (Tai). They also exhibit moderate resistance to diseases such as leaf blast and bacterial leaf blight.
"Our partners in Tanzania have been critical in supporting the development of Komboka and Tai, which are the first IRRI-bred rice varieties developed especially for Tanzania,” observes Dr Kanyeka. “Their vastly superior performance has been recognized by Tanzanian farmers and we are looking forward to seeing more farmers try them out.”
In recent years IRRI has stepped up activities to improve rice production in Africa with the development and release of varieties for Burundi, Mozambique, and now Tanzania.
“Production of more seeds of the two new varieties is underway in close collaboration with the Agricultural Seed Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and we hope that, by 2014, there will be enough seed to start wide-scale nationwide dissemination to farmers ,” said Kanyeka.