Local farm beating drought back

Mr Loren Trimble during a site visit at the Malalane MSP site.

MALALANE – When you think of local agriculture, bananas and sugar cane come to mind first. But a local maize farm is instrumental in helping to develop drought-resilient maize and hybrids.

Agriculture company Monsanto’s Malalane farm, known as a Multi-Seasoned Programme (MSP) site, is where sufficient high-quality seed is produced to enable breeding, providing hybrids for testing and advanced nurseries.

The farm is also a testing facility for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa programme, which consists of developing drought-resilient maize for farmers who do not have access to good seed.

“Water availability is a big challenge for local farmers, and here at Malelane we are fortunate to use the drip-irrigation system. You can irrigate about a third more hectares with the same water if you use this system,” said Mr Loren Trimble, Monsanto’s new SA breeding lead.

Because of the weather conditions, the team can plant throughout the year. “We plant right through winter and speed up the breeding process by planting generations and doing productions which go into trials,” said Mr Peter McKinnon, Malelane MSP site manager.

Trimble is an expert from the US and arrived in the country at the start of June. His vision is to contribute to global food production and agricultural productivity through developing networks, teams, people and products. Most of his work will come alive at the Malelane MSP farm.

“My job has taught me how important food is. Through breeding, we have the ability to produce enough to cater for the growing population. Not only doing it, but making sure that we do it well and even better than we are doing it in South Africa right now,” said Trimble.

He grew up in Iowa, USA, but also spent a few years in Singapore when he was a child.

He graduated from Iowa State University with BS and MS degrees in agronomy and plant breeding, before attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received a PhD in plant breeding and plant genetics.

Trimble hopes that his insights and knowledge will benefit his colleagues and the South African community, and lead to a healthy and sustainable maize-production pipeline.


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