Crop Breeding Institute (CBI) falls under the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development’s (AMID) Department of Research and Specialist Services, Crops Research Division. It is the government arm responsible for breeding and maintaining 13 field crop varieties as well as availing breeder’s seed for the 13 crop varieties to seed companies for further multiplication and certification. The institute has over 100 year’s crop variety development history since its inception in 1909. CBI has channelled more than 150 crop varieties of different crops on the market to date and some of the varieties have been market movers. Renowned varieties include SR52, R201, R215, ZS206 and ZM521 – maize, Dande and Insiza – wheat, Bimha and Mhofu – soybean varieties, Flamingo and Valencia – groundnut and Amethyst – Potato. Meanwhile, CBI is the only institute with active rice, Bambara nut and Cowpea breeding programmes. Two Bambara nut varieties (Mana and Kazuma), three cowpea varieties (CBC1, CBC2 and CBC3) are already circulating on the market. Work is currently underway, to popularise three new rice varieties (NERICA 1, NERICA 3 and NERICA 7). The institute is supported by a total of 170 staff disintegrated as follows; 1 head of station, 2 chief research officers, 11 research officers, 1 chief research technician, 9 research technicians, 24 agricultural assistants, 1 agricultural supervisor, 1 accounting assistant, 1 executive assistant, 1 administrative assistant, 2 drivers, 3 handy man, 11 senior research hand, 23 research hand, 3 watchman, 75 general hands and field orderly. The institution has also an international face, being the first institution in the world (outside the USA) to release a single cross maize hybrid – SR52 in 1952. Recently, the CBI Maize breeding programme has won the best maize breeding team award for the southern African region for a record three times since 2009.


To carry out research and development, advisory and technical services, farmer training, food technology, dissemination of technologies and managing and advising on biodiversity and genetic conservation and sustainable farming “CULTIVATE AND TAKE CARE”.

Mandate crops

CBI has a national mandate to work on the following crop varieties: maize (Zea mays), wheat (Triticum aestivum), groundnut (Arachis hypogea), soybean (Glycine max), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), rice (Oryzae sativum), common bean (Phaseolus vulgarisL.), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), potato (Solanum tiberosum) and Bambara nut (Vigna subterranean).


To facilitate increased agricultural production and productivity

To improve people’s livelihoods through the development, evaluation and release of improved crop varieties for sustainable socio-economic development.

Key responsibilities

  • Release improved crop varieties that meet the demands of respective stakeholders.
  • Provide breeders’ seed of all government-bred varieties to contracted seed houses.
  • Provide technical information of field crops.
  • Participate in training farmers in seed production.
  • Participate in policy formulation that relates to the mandated field crops.
  • Collaborate with other stakeholders in national developmental issues.


CBI is located along Fifth Street Extension opposite the Royal Harare Golf Club. The mailing address is P.O. Box CY 550, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Structure of crop breeding institute

Research programmes are divided into 5 major clusters according to crop type and primary use.

Maize breeding

The breeding programme is manned by two research officers. Current breeding objectives include high grain yielding ability under stress and optimum growing condition, early to medium maturity, resistance to foliar diseases (grey leaf spot, maize streak virus and turcium leaf blight) and ear rots (Diplodia, Fusarium, Aspergillus), insect resistance (stem borers, maize weevil and large grain borer), drought and low nitrogen tolerance, low soil pH and high nutritional quality (QPM). The breeding programme collaborates with CIMMYT in some of its research projects.

Winter cereals

The winter cereals programme is made up of wheat, potato and rice. Research agenda for each crop is led by a research officer. Current breeding objectives for wheat are high tillering and yielding ability, leaf and stem rust resistance, semi-dwarf varieties (<0.95m tall), resistance to sprouting, early maturity (<140 days) and wide adaptation. CIMMYT is another major collaborator with the wheat breeding programme. The potato programme seeks to develop oblong, large sized tubers with shallow eyes for table potato, develop varieties with high dry matter content, medium sized tubers which are yellow fleshed for the crisping industry and high yielding varieties which are resistant to insects and diseases (late and early blight, common and powdery scab) for farmers. The potato programme interacts with the potato industry more frequently.


Common bean, cowpea and bambara nut constitute the pulses programme and research agenda for these crops is directed by two research officers. Research objectives for bambara nut include high yielding ability (> 1000kg/ha) under farmer conditions, resistance to Fusarium wilt, early maturity (< 145 days) and increased drought tolerance. The cowpea breeding objectives adds resistance to storage pests (bruchids) and field pests (aphids) and increased seed size (between 30 – 40 g/ 100 seed weight) to objectives of the bambara nut. Common bean programme focuses on high yielding (> 2 000 kg/ha) on farmer’s fields, disease resistance (angular leaf spot, common bacterial blight, bean common mosaic virus, rust, anthracnose), field and storage pests resistance (bean stem maggot and bruchids respectively), drought and heat tolerance, low soil fertility tolerance, improved iron and zinc content in varieties and varieties that meet consumer preferences in terms of shape, colour, size, taste and cooking time. CIAT and PABRA actively collaborate in the common bean breeding projects.


Oilseeds programme is made up of sunflower, groundnuts and soybean. Each crop is under the leadership of a research officer. Breeding objectives forgroundnutsinclude high yield potential, high oil content (>40%), high shelling percentage, high oleic/linoleic ratio, strong peg attachment, good kernel quality and resistance to pests and diseases. The soybean programme concentrates on the development of high yielding varieties, varieties that are resistant to shattering at maturity and stem lodging as well as early maturity (<140 days). The sunflower programme has five breeding objectives namely; high seed yield (> 2 500kg/ha), high oil content (>45%), good standing ability, good head traits (size, shape, non shattering, number) and uniformity in maturity.

Sorghum and millets breeding

Two research officers direct research for the sorghum, finger and pearl millets. Current research objectives for millets are development of bristled pearl millet varieties, development of pearl millet hybrids that are responsive to high potential areas and irrigation, development of dual purpose pearl millet varieties (food and fodder), early maturity in finger millet and resistance to blast diseases in pearl millet. Meanwhile, the sorghum breeding programme concentrates on the development of early maturing varieties (<120 days) with high water use efficiency (WUE), varieties that are resistant to bird damage, high yielding potential, dual purpose sorghums (food and fodder value) and good brewing qualities.

Research sites

The institute has four primary research centres namely, Harare Research Centre, Gwebi Variety Testing Centre, Nyanga Experiment Station for potato and Matopos Research Station for sorghum and millets. The institute also does wider testing of germplasm through the whole country at crop productivity units under a sister institution, Agronomy Research Institute and farmers’ fields. AGRITEX staff are also responsible for some of the on farm trials in the farmers’ fields.