SENSAKO (PTY) LTD is primarily engaged in the breeding and the commercialization of wheat seed which it markets under the brand name SENSAKO. Our vision is to help optimize cereal production and profitability for the benefit of cereal producers and processors alike.
Our wheat breeding team comprises 60% of the senior wheat breeders in South Africa and with over 100 years of combined experience is the most experienced in the country. Together, they have produced 75% of the most recent provisional or final wheat cultivar releases for the country. Sensako wheat cultivars also account for approximately 80% of all wheat grown in South Africa. A key component to the groups' success are the excellent relationships with other international wheat breeding programs from where new and valuable germplasm has and will continue to be sourced.
Sensako's breeding strategy, known as modified pedigree selection, incorporates key breeding technologies which, coupled with the use of molecular marker selection and high throughput quality analytics maximizes efficiency and productivity. The programs focus on producing wheat varieties for the key commodity and quality markets in South Africa, incorporating key agronomic characters such as increased yield, adaptability and consistency, straw length, milling and baking improvements and disease resistance.
Sensako currently has 19 commercial cultivars and there are 9, 7 and 8 pre-commercial cultivars for the irrigation, Cape and winter breeding programs.
Sensako's wheat breeding programs are operationally serviced from two sites. Bethlehem (Marne Research Farm) where the Analytics Laboratory, Irrigation & Winter wheat programs are based, and Napier in the Western Cape where the Doubled Haploid & Cape breeding programs are based.
Route to Market
Sensako operates a licensee business whereby varieties protected by Plant Breeders' Rights are licensed out to other agricultural business. Under these license agreements, Licensees are required to purchase pure parent seed which they multiply into commercial certified seed, and sell to wheat producers the following planting season. A royalty is paid to Sensako on each bag of commercial seed that is sold annually.
Benefits & Sustainability
Wheat is a self pollinated crop. This means that the grain that is produced contains substantially the same genetics as the seed from which it was produced. As such, it can be stored after harvest and planted again the following year with little or no genetic variation to the original seed. This characteristic has a number of consequences to both Sensako and its licensees as farmers have an alternative source of wheat seed. They can either purchase it or grow it themselves. This raises an interesting dynamic in the wheat industry as the benefits that accrue to the industry in general (farmers, processers and consumers alike) from breeding programs are significant and yet there is significantly less seed purchased than is grown on farm. The sustainability of wheat breeding programs therefore needs to be monitored carefully.
Benefits from wheat breeding programs include yield and extraction improvements (which have profitability implications for farmers, millers & bakers, and may very well have impacts on National Food Security and Balance of Payment considerations, as SA is a net importer of wheat), disease resistance, baking qualities and physiological and agronomic adaptation to local conditions. A 1% increase in yield translates to approximately 20 000 tons more wheat that is produced in South Africa. A 1% increase in extraction (flower produced through the milling process) yields approximately 15 000 tons more flower based on current South African wheat production.
Sensako currently receives a grant from The Winter Cereals Trust that is financed through a statutory levy on each ton of wheat that is either imported or delivered in South Africa. The Winter Cereals Trust is represented by stakeholders from the wheat producers, bakers, millers and bakers. Whilst the Winter Cereals Trust cannot guarantee financial support to any research program due to the nature of the Trust's income by means of the statutory levy, they have indicated that "the quality of outputs obtained from the Sensako wheat breeding program over years and the high quality of human resources involved in the program, will have an influence on possible future support to the program".