New rice variety to give farmers more returns

By MUNENE KAMAU

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) is developing a new improved Basmati rice variety that will cushion farmers against crop loss through blast.

Research into the new variety labelled Basmati 470 began in 2010 at the Mwea Kari centre and the seed is expected to be in the market soon, researchers have said.

According to Simon Njinjo, a research scientist at the centre, the new variety will be more ideal for cultivation due its ability to withstand cold conditions and thrive in poor soils.

Njinjo similarly said the variety being developed by the institute with assistance from the World Gene Bank would ensure farmers in the area harvest rice twice in a year as opposed to the current single season.

The variety matures within four months as opposed to the other which matures at five and-a-half months.

According to the research, productions stands at seven metric tonnes per hectare as compared to the five tonnes previously realised from the old variety. “Once farmers start harvesting and realising the benefits of the new variety, it will be Sh140 per kilogramme of the commodity up from Sh75 from the old variety, since demand for this particular one is always high,” Njinjo said.

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He said the centre is working to enable farmers in Kirinyaga County and around the country get more improved seed varieties that do not only withstand unpredictable weather conditions but also ensure the country becomes self sufficient in food production.

The researcher said Kari is liaising with other countries such as Korea and Japan together with the National Council of Science and Technology to provide farmers with quality seeds through the use of improved technology.

Flood irrigation

On his part, Dr Vincent Kega, who is the senior scientist in charge of rice program at the centre, said the new variety would not need the traditional flood irrigation but will rely on rain.

Kega also said farmers would soon start benefiting from a another new rain-fed upland rice variety dubbed NERICA once seeds are distributed to authorised retail outlets.

He said the centre had stocked 10 tonnes of the seeds which are expected to be distributed to farmers wishing to venture into rice farming this year.

“We intend to roll out the selling of the NERICA rice seeds once we liaise with Kenya Seed Company to help in their distribution to the local retail outlets,” he said adding that nationally, Kari had stocked up to 600 tonnes of the NERICA seeds. The NERICA varieties take at least 90 to 120 days to mature.

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Kenya Agricultural Research Instituterice farmingSimon Njinjo