New disease resistant maize released for Kenyan farmers

NAIROBI: Kenya Seed Company has released a new maize seed that is resistant to the vicious striga weed. It also guarantees farmers a harvest three times bigger than current levels.  The new seed dubbed StrigAway ican survive the destructive and parasitic weed referred to as Kayongo (Luo), Oluyongo (Luhya), Imoto (Teso), and Kiduha (Kiswahili).

The firm's Managing Director Mr Willy Bett said striga weed reduces maize yields leading to food insecurity and poverty, and that traditional control methods are mainly manual, which is inefficient and labour intensive.

He said controlling the weed is important to the economy as it leads to higher maize yields and food security and income.

"Farmers who plant StrigAway maize can triple their yields and control striga on their farms. StrigAway maize seed is coated with herbicide that kills Striga before it can harm the maize," Mr Bett said during the release of the seed Thursday.

It is estimated that the striga weed costs farmers in Nyanza and Western Kenya over 70 per cent of their maize crop.

"Adoption of this superior and wide range of seed varieties by farmers has enabled the country to produce sufficient food," said Bett.

African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) researcher, Gospel Omayo said there are two StrigAway varieties available to farmers in this planting season. They include F425 of Kenya Seed Company and Frescho Seed Company and H528 9 (Ua Kayongo 3).

Striga weed spreads mainly through the use of contaminated seed and equipment, surface run-off, eroded soil, wind, animals and people.

According to experts, uprooted Striga plants should be burnt to prevent the weed spreading to other farms. Seeds may remain dormant in the soil for 15-20 years.

The weed infests over 200,000 hectares of farmland along Lake Victoria, and 210,000 hectares in Western Kenya.

Since maize is adaptable to a whole range of climate conditions, it is the single most extensively grown crop. However, the chief growing areas are Trans Nzoia, Nakuru, Bungoma, and Uasin Gishu counties.

In South Nyanza, other parts of the Rift Valley and Western Province, maize is grown alongside other subsistence crops like beans, potatoes and bananas. Good yields are obtained with use of hybrid seeds supplied by Kenya Seed Company.