Farmer perceptions on maize cultivars in the marginal eastern belt of Zimbabwe and their implications for breeding
Productivity of maize (Zea mays) is low in the small-holder sector of Zimbabwe because the crop is grown under stress-prone environments and limited resources. The objective of this study was to investigate farmer perceptions on maize cultivars and their implications for breeding. Participatory rural appraisal and household surveys were conducted in the marginal eastern-belt of Zimbabwe, during 2004 to 2005. Although farmers predominantly grew hybrids, productivity (ranging between 240 and 500 kg ha·') was below national average of I tlha; hence grain defkit was rampant. Surprisingly, farmers preferred hybrids of the 1970s to new hybrids, due to their superior tolerance to abiotic stress. Farmers also preferred a locallandrace ''Chi tonga", because of its superior taste and flint grain. Nonetheless, farmers recognised that both "Chi tonga" and hybrids lacked the drought stress recovery mechanism; which is prevalent in sorghum, thus failed to tit into short seasons. Cultivar preferences were areaspecific with farmers in more productive Mutasa showing high preference for grain weevil resistance, while those in Chipinge and Mutare West preferred cultivars with drought tolerance, among othertraits. Besides conventional breeding, integrated use of participatory approaches and othe; appropriate technologies such as molecular technology to fix novel stress tolerant genes in ultra-early cultivars for deployment in marginal areas is implied.
Key Words: Participatory breeding methods, production constraints, stress tolerance, Zea mays