Eight new sugarcane varieties for Zimbabwe

In October 2023, ZSAES released 8 new sugarcane varieties, namely, ZN11, ZN12, ZN13, ZN14, ZN15, ZN16, ZN17 and ZN18. These varieties are adding to the original 14 varieties that were already in the market. That means we now have a total of 22 released sugarcane varieties in Zimbabwe. For the first time in the Zimbabwe Sugar Industry (ZSI), these new varieties came with Plant Breeder’s Rights certificates that protect the intellectual property rights of ZSAES as the rightful owners of these varieties. This means no one has the right to bulk these varieties without ZSAES authorisation. All of these varieties can be grown in any corner of the ZSI and they can be grown at any time of the year. All eight varieties are good ratooners and have good genes for resistance to major pest and diseases that are common in the lowveld of Zimbabwe (Eldana, Smut and leaf scald).  Performance against the important yellow sugarcane aphids (YSA) is still being assessed and will be shared through road shows and bulletins. All these varieties outperformed the most popular commercial varieties i.e. N14 and ZN10 by statistically significant margins for sucrose yield, and that was the basis for their release. ZN11, ZN15, ZN17 and ZN18 can be grown commercially with immediate effect while ZN12, ZN13, ZN14 and ZN16 (soft varieties) cannot be grown locally until our local mills can extract the sugar out of them more efficiently. The ‘soft varieties’ will be marketed outside Zimbabwe for generation of revenue for ZSAES. Certified seed cane for ZN11, ZN15, ZN17 and ZN18 will be bulked for THZ operations with immediate effect while a new seed system is being developed for out-grower farmers. The new seed system entails ZSAES acquiring seed farms for across all mill groups. Farmers in these congregates will be expected to register their requirements at the respective seed farms once operational. Time frames will depend on the pace of acquiring the sites from the relevant Ministry and also the availability of funding the ground work for fencing, land clearing and accessing water. ZSAES will manage these farms. The earliest these farms might start providing seed might be 2025-2026 season. Let us celebrate the gains one step at a time.

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