COVID-19 Response

Crop Research

 An Overview

The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) is discharging its responsibilities of delivering and continually improving various agricultural technologies and their recommended applications and production methods by coordinating its research activities through various work processes and coordination offices,with the ultimate goal of ensuring food security and reducing poverty in the country in line with the Government’s development direction.

The major strategic goals of crop research in EIAR are:

  • Supplying competent , effective and suitable agricultural technologies in adequate amount applicable to agro-processing industries, export market, food and nutrition enhancement;
  • Enhance institutional executing capacities;
  • Enabled in adequately multiplying and supplying initial technologies to diversified cropping systems: Belg and rain fed system, irrigation system, cropping system etc.; and
  • Enhancing transfer of research outputs, skill and knowledge for development

The Crop Research Directorate has been conducting various significant research activities and development-oriented tasks through the various centers of the Institute and in collaboration with higher learning institutions (HLIs), regional agricultural research institutions,regional bureaus of agriculture, and international research institutions and other relevant partners. Accordingly, it has helped to increase the productivity and production of the farmers and strengthened the efficiency of markets and relate dagro-industries. 

The research has also engaged itself in the coordination of agricultural research activities throughout the country, technology pre-multiplication, pre-extension scaling out, capacity building, and provision of supports to those in need.It is believed that enabling a sustainable, reliable and demand-based supply of technologies to users that is based on the nationally set development vision and the GoE’s development policy and strategy, that assesses institutional strengths and weaknesses, and that is based on a strategic plan and management document that considers the interests of concerned bodies shall all help EIAR and the Directorate to become more efficient in supplying technologies to users.

  • Barley in Ethiopia is produced in cooler agro-ecology, occupying about a million ha. The research has been undertaken on productivity, resistance to pests and quality parameters /malt/.
  • Thus far, 16 malt and 36 food barley varieties have been generated and availed to users.
  • The national average productivity has grown from less than 1 t/ha to 2 t/ha over the two decades; whereas with best adopter farmers 4-5t/ha has been realized.
  • Industry-oriented malt barley variety generation and testing has been carried out with recent focus.
  • The national barley research has been awarded the national science and innovation trophy for its outstanding performance in malt barley research.
  • The barley program is focusing on industrial quality and quantity through technology availing partnering with the breweries and other facilitators. It is also focusing on seed system research to maximize access in the development sector.

  • Maize is one of the widely adapted principal and productive food crops occupying about 1.8 million ha in warmer to cooler agro-climatic ranges.
  • Maize research has focused on filling gaps in yield,adaptation and stress tolerance.
  • Some 61 agro-ecology clustered varieties have been released; including hybrid and OPV, QPMs with their recommended production packages since its inception.
  • The national productivity has gained a 77% increase in two decades to score 3.5 t/ha; whereas under best adoption condition 7-8t/ha is common for farmers.
  • Various acting development parties are extensively making use of improved maize varieties, particularity of hybrids, as their production inputs.
  • The maize research program is now focusing on biotic strains like MLND, rust, viral diseases; production potential, climatic resilience like heat, and improving yield potential options.

  • Wheat is top of the critical crops in food security and utilization. It covers 1.7 miilion ha of cooler and intermediate agro-ecology domain, and recently is advanced to the warmer ecology under irrigation.
  • The national wheat research has undertaken rigorous undertakings on yield gaps, diseases/rust/, quality /industrial/and adaptability.
  • Some 67 bread and 33 durum wheat varieties have been released thus far responding to the critical gaps identified.
  • The national yield has doubled just in two decades and recently it gives out 2.5 t/ha; while under best management farmers gained about 7 t/ha on average. Even if nationally some 400,000 t are produced, still some 20% deficient is fulfilled by import.
  • More than 15 durum wheat varieties have been released qualifying the industrial needs.
  • The program is winner of the national science and innovation trophy, for its outstanding performance in combating rust.
  • Activities are underway in preventing and controlling wheat rust disease, productivity increment, industrial quality maintenance, and irrigated wheat technologies.

  • Sorghum with the national coverage of some 1.6 million ha is occupying the climatic sensitive ecology and fills critical gaps of pastorals and agro-pastorals vulnerable in the domain.
  • Sorghum research has been executed focusing on phenological traits, diseases,and bird attack, quality and adaptabilitytraits.
  • Some 41 sorghum and 14 millet varietieshave been released thus far filling theprioritized gaps identified.
  • Productivity has increased from some 1t/ha to 2.4 t/ha in just two decades.
  • The research program is now focusingon generation of hybrid super yieldingvarieties, quality meeting varieties, seedsystem enhancement, and resilience toimpacts of climate are the focus of thecurrent research on sorghum.\

  • Tef is the top area crop with some 3 million ha and more than 8 million producers, spreading in warmer, intermediate agro-ecologies; with few part on the cooler climatic zones.
  • The research program has been undertaking research focusing on yield improvement, lodging resistance, and different market class technology development, and recently with planting system.
  • Thus far, the program released 35 varieties of different productivity, quality, adaptability and market preference.
  • The productivity of the crop has increased to an average of 16 q/ha from a tone two decades ago.
  • The program is winner of the science and innovation forum trophy for wider impact of the Kuncho variety.
  • Current research in tef focuses and making hundreds of gene pool enhancement every year gearing to productivity increment, adaptability /non-traditional ecologies/, export quality, and lodging resistance.

  • Rice is one of the globally important crop coming to an adaptation in Ethiopian agricultural system. Even if its arrival is relatively recent, the adaptation of the crop is immense.
  • Some 29 varieties suit to irrigation-7,upland-16 and lowland- 6 have been released.
  • Productivity has grown as high as 2.9 t/ha, which is superior to many principal crops of old existence.
  • Current areas of focus in rice research include crop management and identification and generation of hybrid varieties, mechanization, postharvest technology, and resistance to biotic challenges like blast, and abiotic cases like cold.


  • Includes crops that are produced in the cool and semi cooler climatic domain, and dominated by vertisols and wheat-soil media. They cover area of about a million ha, with faba bean taking the major share of about 440 k ha.
  • The research program of highlands pulses have identified and prioritized challenges like: A. Blight in chickpea, chocolate spot in faba bean, soil born complex diseases, rust, aphides, postharvest pests, water logging, yield deficit, quality parameters for industry, marketing and consumption.
  • Thus far some 97 varieties of faba bean (29), field pea (34),chickpea (33) and lentil (10) have been released suit to different market class, adaptation, utility values.
  • Productivity has grown from less than 1 t/ha to 1.8 in faba bean,1.9 chickpea, 1.4 lentil and 1.6 in field pea in two decades.
  • Chickpea and lentil program has won the national science and innovation forum for its outstanding performance and impact in Kabuli chickpea and Alemaya lentil variety.
  • The role of the crop in generating foreign currency, in maintaining appropriate nutrition, and providing inputs for the agro-industry sector has grown, and activities focusing on disease resistance, adaptability, productivity increment, and industry and export quality maintenance are being carried out.

  • Lowland pulses are, pulse groups grown under warmer climatic and shorter moisture environment. Most of them fall under high market class agri-produce category; and valuable to climatic errors.
  • The crop under this category covers about half a million ha.
  • The research has been taking place with prioritized gaps like moisture stress, heat stress, pests, diseases /bean magot/, market quality, nutritional quality.
  • Thus far some 65 varieties have been released with share of cowpea-6, haricot bean 55, mung bean 4 suitable in the warmer climatic corridors and responding to identified challenges.
  • The productivity of low land pulse is still at poor improvement,however, it has grown from less than 1 t/ha to 1.5 t/ha in the last three decades.
  • Research activities on these commodities have enabled earning of significant amount of foreign currency from marketing/export of haricot bean, mung bean.
  • The research program is now focusing on bio-threat resistance,nutritional enhancement, yield potential improvement, heat tolerance, moisture deficit tolerance, salinity tolerance, acidity tolerance, irrigation system technology and seed system.


  • Oil crops include wide range of crop species which in common yield oil as a byproduct. The crops categorized under this group have wider range of adaptability just from heat (sesame, groundnut) to cold (noug, rapeseed,linseed). Their utility values also vary, of course most with high market/ export values, generating revenue to the country.
  • The research program has been focusing on yield improvement, pest management/ sesame bug/, and quality improvement /oil, confectionery, processing).
  • Thus far, some 84 varieties inclusive of linseed (16),noug (5), sunflower (14), rapeseed (8), sesame(20),groundnut(21) and others have been released over the last 4 decades with an emphasis on meeting the quality standards of processing industries and the export market.
  • The yield improvement is yet poor, that most of them remain below a ton per ha. However, oil yield and quality improvement has gained good levels with some. The agro-industrial linkage is yet far poor from expectation and need unique action.
  • Current research in this sector focuses on increasing productivity and quality of the crop, and generation and adaptation of disease-resistant varieties, agro-industrial quality and yielding cultivars.



  • Soy bean is one of the influential crop rich in protein and oil, however, relatively a new comer(5 decades) to Ethiopia. The crop occupies some 20000 ha of land, and is produced in south and south west parts.
  • With its 19% average fat content 40% protein content, it outranks egg, beef, peas and goat milk which are known to be of high protein content.
  • Research has been geared towards selecting best fit adaptive varieties that are released globally,consumption, and agro-processing quality.
  • In Ethiopia, research on adaptation of the soybean began in early 1950s EC, since then, the contribution of the crop in nutrition, availability of feed, and as industrial input has shown a significant increase.
  • Until now, some 22 soybean varieties have been generated and released, helping increase the productivity of the crop by little over 2 t/ha.
  • Currently the research program is focusing on developing high yielder, qualitatively competent to agro- processing and feeding, and adaptation parameters.


  • Ethiopian cotton research program is one of the oldest,destined to commercial system and irrigation. In its more than 4 decades of age, it has released more than 27 varieties, including hybrid cotton and one Kenaf variety that suit to the production system.
  • The research program has identified critical gaps in yield,bio-threats and soil medium related factors.
  • Recently, it has released hybrids of more than 10% productive cultivars, and the program is focusing on medium length types, adaptive and productive technologies that stand bio-abiotic stresses.
  • Despite the gains, the booming garment industry in Ethiopia could not be supplied with designed quality and quantity of the produce.
  • The program is focusing on developing super quality varieties in yield and lint size and strength, seed system, hybrid development, technology development for rain fed and irrigation system and in line with the regulation to catching with genetically modified technologies for pest and weed.

 Horticultural Crops: Fruits

  • Fruits account about 50000 ha of land, adapted to warmer agro- ecological landscapes with or without irrigation. The land holdings of this farms are often private commercials, and some proportion are small number tree holders.
  • The national fruit research program so far has focused on adaptation of best bet cultivars, their management scheme including grafting, fertilization and media factors.
  • Hence, some 32 productive and quality meeting varieties each in banana (12), avocado (6), pineapple(1) mango (4), wine grape (9), and papaya (3) have been released.
  • Most of these fruits have penetrated local markets and benefited their users.
  • Currently, activities focusing on productivity increment,pest management, market quality parameters, utility demands are being carried out.
  • The sector has immense opportunity to develop and the current development plan of the government is towards the horticultural sector.



  • Some 190000 ha of land is covered by vegetable crops that are produced under both rain fed and irrigation.
  • Ethiopian vegetable research has been geared towards identification of quality and demand driven types,most of which are introduced and adapted.
  • Thus far, More than 80 varieties in some 27 s including tomato (26), garlic (5) onion (14), shallot (4) peppers(13), cabbage (8), lettuce (10) have been released.This has proved to be a fruitful area of research that has brought about significant increase in vegetable production.
  • Transfer of knowledge has been made possible through activities undertaken in integration with the private sector, who follow precision production investment principles.
  • The local market is one of the huge sink for the massive production of vegetables.
  • Currently, research activities with respect to generation of hybrid varieties, prevention/control of diseases and pests, and application of precision agriculture, seed system are focus of the research program of particular emphasis.


Roots and Tubers

  • Root and Tubers are crops mainly distributed in the south and southwestern zones where relatively longer moisture period is manifested.
  • The crops are major source of family calorie security particularly in populated parts of the country.
  • Thus far more than 68 varieties including potato (32), sweet potato (25), cassava(2),Taro (3), and Enset (6) and Yam(3), have been released in the last 3 decades, which are of a significant contribution in satisfying nutritional and food requirements and market demands.
  • Current research activities focus on generation of disease-resistant and highly productive varieties which satisfy nutritional as well as agro-processing demands.



  • Coffee Arabica is produced in Ethiopia North West to south east hemisphere, and is the driver of agricultural produce fetching the top multi-million revenue income.
  • The crop covers more than half a million ha nationally.
  • Research in coffee has been conducted for some 40 years, and some 36 varieties including hybrids have been released till now.
  • The average productivity has increased from 3 q/ha to 8 q/ha in two decades, and this figure reaches as high as 18 q/ha under situations where technology recommendations are fully applied.
  • The release of hybrid coffee varieties has increased the overall production of coffee by 15% for adapting farmers.
  • Current research in coffee focus on generation of superior hybrid varieties, market class varieties,productive, and adaptable cultivars.




  • Ethiopia is endowed with agro-climatic opportunities to grow diverse spices.There is traditional costum to consume spices since many generation. Spices research includes highland crops such as black pepper, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, Korarima, long pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, black cumin, fenugreek, coriander and white cumin current.
  • The two major spices are highland spices and lowland/perennial spices,both of which are yet less reached by the research.
  • Research activities focus on generation of disease-resistant, processing quality,highly productive and market-competitive varieties.



 Aromatic, Medicinal and Biofuel crops

  • Aromatic, medicinal and biofuel crops are crops of special preference in the cosmetic,seasoning, flavor, medicinal industries using plant sources. Essential oils are critical elements of the resource.
  • Research has been undertaking on characterization and basic understanding of the bio-products. There has also been key focus and piloting of small scale processing industries on the bio-products for different purposes.
  • Thus far some 25 varieties have been released fitting the gaps in the sector.
  • The program is focusing on agro-industrial application technologies, agro-ecological suitability study, multiplication system,technology dissemination and scaling up. Biofuel
  • This sector is on a fast advance globally and currently it is one of the goals in the research system.
  • Particular emphasis is given to jatropha, castor oil and some field crops .
  • The research will keep on characterization, development, and identification of germplasm cultivars for agro-industrial application.


Agronomy, physiology and Cropping system

  • Crop management contributes more than one third of the total components in crop production. Agronomic research has thus far been recommended cropping density, cropping pattern, cropping system, nutrient management etc have significantly contributed to the crop system.
  • In the research system still there is a great hope to get more responses as we go along.
  • The program is focusing on the cropping system inline with agro-ecology and climatic situation; yield potential establishment, maximum input responses composition, etc.


Crop Protection

  • The research in crop protection has highly contributed to increases in production and maintenance quality standards through availability of important technology packages in protecting crops from any bio-threats.
  • A number of recommendation have been put forward thus far.
  • Crop protection packages combined with crop management options facilitate yield response maximization.
  • Currently, research activities focus on integration-based application of cropping system, agro-ecological sensitive and climate responsive practices.