With the whir of a mower, under clear blue skies, Senegalese researchers have begun harvesting a crop of experimental home-grown wheat, the latest step in a years-long effort to reduce reliance on imports.
Wheat is the second most consumed grain after rice, and is an important staple in the bread-loving West African country.
But Senegal, like many of its neighbours, is entirely dependent on foreign supplies.
It imports 800,000 metric tons of grain annually.
Its tropical climate is not naturally suitable for wheat but local experiments have been underway for years.
Supply chain problems, soaring grain prices, and inflation caused by the war in Ukraine added urgency to the country’s efforts to become self-sufficient.
Since late last week, researchers from the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA), a public research institute, have been harvesting four varieties of wheat on an experimental plot of land in Sangalkam, 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the capital, Dakar.
Three of the varieties are Egyptian and the fourth was developed by the institute.
The company operates five experimental plots in total — two near Dakar and three in the Senegal River Valley — and has tested hundreds of wheat varieties, said Amadou Tidiane Sall, one of the researchers.
Many proved inappropriate.
The Sangalkam crop, one of several successful experiments conducted by the institute, was sown in early January and matured within three months during Senegal’s cold season.
Agriculture Minister Ali Nguel Ndiaye visited the plot earlier this month.
He said he requested Egyptian seeds on a visit to the North African country to attend the UN’s COP27 climate conference in November.
“We have great potential,” the minister said during his visit, and pledged that the government would work with the private sector to expand the experiment schemes.
He acknowledged that the lack of sufficient water for irrigation is a major challenge.
Not everyone is convinced that wheat can be grown on a large scale in Senegal.
Amadou Gaye, president of the National Union of Bakers of Senegal, which represents some 2,500 bakeries across the country, told AFP he would prefer to see resources dedicated to the production of local grains such as millet, maize and sorghum.
© 2023 AFP
the quote: Senegal Harvests First Homegrown Experimental Wheat (2023, April 9) Retrieved April 9, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-senegal-harvests-experimental-homegrown-wheat.html
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