Sh90 million molecular laboratory for rice research

The Sh 90 million ultra modern laboratory due for completion by month end at Kimbimbi market, Mwea which is a global facility for rice production.PHOTO:MUNENE KAMAU/STANDARD. DATE:JUNE 14/2017

An ultra-modern molecular laboratory for rice research in Mwea is due for completion by the end of this month.

The Sh90 million complex will be used by crop scientists from African countries that produce rice.

Situated on the premises of the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organisation at Kimbimbi market, the Mwea centre will carry out research on drought-resistant rice varieties and also those adoptable to global climate change.

According to the centre's manager, John Kimani, the lab has been jointly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Kenyan Government.

The rice-producing countries will benefit from the facility by sending their researchers to utilise the laboratory for the improvement of the crop.

He said the Mwea rice blast disease was first detected in the area in 2008 after farmers started replanting uncertified seeds when the sector was liberalised in 1998.

Rice straws

Dr Kimani added that the farmers started harvesting and selling rice straws as cattle feed, leaving their farms without silicon, which is ideal for the rice crop.

Silicon strengthens the cell walls, making the crop resistant to rice blast, which lowers production.

"The booming rice straw business has left most rice farms suffering from acute silicon deficiency, which leads to poor harvest. To mitigate the problem, we have advised the managers of the Eldoret-based fertiliser manufacturing plant to formulate its product with the silicon mineral," he said.

The laboratory will also carry out extensive research on soil salinity, which hampers rice production in many countries.

Crop rotation

He said in Mwea, production was being hampered by non-crop rotation. The growing of rice throughout the year does not give the land space to dry.

"Farmers need to grow beans, water melons, and other early maturing crops to break the whole-year monotony of rice production," he said. [Munene Kamau]