By VALENTINE OFORO, DODOMA
THE Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI) has started to implement a special strategy to empower the grape farmers in Dodoma region with modern agro-technology.
The development surfaces following a decision by the government to include grapes among strategic crops.
The director of TARI- Makutupora Centre, Dr. Cornel Masawe, yesterday told the website during an interview that poor adoption of recommended agronomic practices was the chief factor impeding the farmers from realising deserved harvest.
The Makutupora centre has been designated to undertake grape researches as well as assist the farmers to come aware and adopt the best agronomic practices in cultivating the prestigious economic cash crop.
He observed that growing grapes was very sensitive hence involving farmers are required to receive enough knowledge and techniques in order to harvest bumpers.
“Growing grapes requires systematic and professional treatment throughout all stages till harvesting,” Dr. Masawe said, added,” At the farm, grapes are required to be planted in special trenches, whereby each hectare comprises 20 trenches, under a special dimension of 2.5 meters from one trench to another. And each trench consumes 1 lorry (5tons) of fertilizer,” he detailed.
He expressed that the recently established centre for Agricultural Technology Hub (ATH) in Dodoma region was a major boost to grape farmers, saying the hub will play a vital role to impart the growers with beat knowledge.
Among the technologies to be disseminated at the equipped hub, he said, include improved seed technologies, best agronomic practices, post-harvest management, social economy and farming system as well as integrated pest management.
Moreover, he added that at the hub, the farmers will also be equipped on how to mitigate common grapes diseases, mostly fungus, powdery mildew and downy mildew.
Dr. Masawe informed that the state-owned seed research institute has so far introduced at least 25 varieties for dry, table and wine grapes, being in a bid to propel for mass cultivation of the strategic crop.
“We’re currently working to produce more seedlings and made them available to the farmers,” he said, adding that the program has already produced at least 100,000 seedlings.
In more efforts to step up production of the grapes and wine sector in Tanzania, Dr. Masawe said the centre is also finalizing the process to introduce into the country at least 13 new wine grape varieties from South Africa.
The seed varieties to be imported from South Africa, which is a mixture of red and white grafted scions, as well as rootstocks, are Pinotage, Cabinet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Durif and Carignan, Chardonnay, Chenin Black, Semillon, Ramsey, R99, R110 and S04.
Tanzania is placed second after South Africa for brewing the best wines within the continent, but there are only two wine grape varieties grown in the country, Makutupora Red and Chenin White, a situation that limits the production of wider varieties of wines.
Research proved that Tanzania has the potential weather to produce grapes with high sugar contents, which is useful in processing wines of a high alcoholic per cent (from 12 to 14 per cent), more than the rest counties in the world where the crop is grown.