Gircha Highland Fruits and Vegetables Research Centre nestled 3007-meter up the sea-level at Gircha in Chencha embarked on a noble mission to analyze high-altitude local and improved varieties will find out best alternative for local peasants to boost yield, enhance quality and stimulate income.

In an in-depth interview, Centre Director, Dr Kebede Jobir, has revealed the whole gamut of ongoing research activities, its purpose and the status quo; the full text follows.

For over a year, AMU researchers are analyzing key issues associated with apple yield, its roots, tubers, and highland vegetables. Some cabbage, garlic and carrot varieties collected from Haramaya, Debre Zeit and Hawassa Research centres with hybrid including local ones are being investigated, he said.

He further informed, potato tubers’ first trial is over but further, it will be tried with disease-resistant varieties. The cabbage trial is on while garlic has an issue as varieties collected from Chencha can’t resist moisture; soil pH 4.8 level is deterrent, but we are looking into, he adds.

Chencha soil’s poor pH level needs lime and manure application to reduce acidity. Lauding farmers, he said adding, ‘‘they repeatedly use compost manure that increases pH level to some extent.’’

Giving brief statistics, he said, the annual apple yield in Chencha is approximately 8.1 Tons with each plant supposedly producing 5 to 10 kilograms; but soil pH level and unstable weather often play spoil sport affecting yield and quality. Hence, the best varieties that will flourish in the given climatic condition will be identified.

A year before, 180 seedlings of five varieties grafted on rootstocks MM.106 were planted and are doing well. Other six varieties of pear fruits grafted on QUINCE rootstocks, a total of 225 and 25 varieties of plum seedlings, on other eight rootstocks (1294) adds up to the total of 1724 planted varieties.

Elaborating further, he says, rootstocks determine quality, productivity, color, marketable size etc., that’s why we have collected nine of them from Chencha and a year later planted them to adapt to the soil conditions. In August, 50 varieties of apple and pear were grafted on them; most of them may fail due to hormonal incompatibility, so keen observation will find out the best. But, so far, the compatibility is more promising.

It’s learnt that in order to improve apple yield and quality, the Centre may import best root stocks from South Africa and Egypt. The study further revealed that apple needs three seasons for better research management and it takes at least 10 years to evaluate performances related to fruits’ marketable quality that include size, shape, color and sweetness.

On soil suitability, he said that soil characterization unravel what nutrient is available, what needs to be supplied to make it more productive, if certain minerals are low farmers can apply manure.

‘‘Farmers feel AMU is doing commendable job but they expect more. Efforts are also on to join hands with Ministry of Horticulture and research centres abroad to find best suited varieties which will bring revolution in the lives of Chencha farmers,’’ he sums up.

Once the Centre is completed and formally launched, it is expected to have over 20 full-time researchers including academic staff. Potential professionals will continue research and even MSc students will be part of this unique centre.


(Corporate Communication Directorate)