The National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) has started collecting different types of passion fruits grown in the country to breed them further for resistance to pests and diseases and tolerance to drought.
The move is in response to the demand from farmers for improved passion fruit varieties that are not only high yielding but can also withstand the changing weather.
This was revealed by Dr.Anthony Pariyo, the team leader of the Horticulture and Oil palm development program at NaCRRI on Saturday during a training session of passion fruit farmers at NaCRRI in Namulonge.
NaCCRI is a research station under the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) conducting research in Root crops like cassava, cereals like maize and then vegetables and fruits among others.
Pariyo said for a long time, passion fruit has not been considered as a big crop but is becoming one with farmers demanding for quality seed and better varieties.
"We are assembling passion fruit germplasm across the country to assess the varieties so as to identify traits like tolerance to pests and diseases, have a good flavor, less acid so as to advice farmers on the best varieties," said Pariyo.
Pariyo said if they cannot get the desired varieties locally, they will have to import germplasm (raw materials found in the plant usually with better features) from Brazil, which is the country of origin for passion fruits until they come up with the best for farmers.
"Our desire is to see better yields and varieties that satisfy the needs of a farmer, the varieties should be resistant to pests and diseases, possibly early maturing, high yielding and are drought resistant," Pariyo added.
Farmers were taken through proper post-harvest management, pests and diseases, farm management, nursery management, proper use of agro chemicals, in addition to how to grow for the export market.
The training that was conducted by experts from NaCCRI was jointly organized by Davis and Shirtlif for irrigation solutions, happy farmer organization into capacity building for farmers, MTK dealers in agro chemicals, Housing Finance Bank, among others.
Allan Ssempala, the executive director of Happy Farmers said there is demand for passion fruits but farmers lack best farming practices.
"Through this training, farmers will get skills on how to grow passion fruits profitably and those already in growing will get additional skills and improve their yields," said Ssempala.
He said the horticulture industry accounts for 20% of Uganda's exports and is capable of creating employment for many people.
Ahmed Mbaziira a farmer from Rakai district who attended the training session is already growing 7 acres of passion fruits which he hopes to process and sell juice. He however expressed concern over the absence of technical people who can advise farmers on how to manage pests and diseases.
"We don't have an expert who can guide us on chemicals, sometimes I use chemicals meant for tomatoes for passion fruit, it works for me but may not be recommended that is why I came for this training to also interact with researchers," added Mbaziira.