National Performance for BT cotton undertaken in Mwea
Cotton farmers are expected to start reaping profits from a new variety set to be introduced in the next six months.
The final trials for the new variety - bio-technologically modified (BT) cotton - are underway in seven centres in the country.
Experts say the new variety produces three times the amount of cotton the traditional variety does.
It also needs three spraying sessions compared to more than 15 for the traditional variety.
The BT cotton matures faster and is expected to end Kenya's dependency on imports for the textile industry.
Speaking during the National Performance Trials planting at Mathangauta village in Mwea, the lead researcher in the project, Charles Waturu, said of the seven selected centres, only Bura in Tana River and Matuga in the coast region were remaining.
The trials were spearheaded by senior researchers from the Kenya Agricultural, Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro).
The crop scientist said after the trials are complete, the next phase shall be obtaining clearance from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis).
The new variety is expected to be officially launched for commercial farming towards the end of this year, after a 17-year journey.
“We have overcome most of the biggest hurdles during the 17-year journey that started at the (Kalro) Mwea centre, where the first BT cotton seeds were experimented on. I can confidently assure farmers that by the next long rains the variety will be released to them for commercial production," said Dr Waturu.
The Mwea phase of the trials is expected to be ready in four months.
"Before the end of this month we will be through with the planting of this high-yielding seed as we wait for the crop to mature by the end of November to enable Kephis to issue certification," said the researcher.
Kephis is a government parastatal whose mandate is to ensure the quality of agricultural input and produce to prevent adverse impact on the economy, environment and human health.
The new variety is immune to cotton's most destructive pest, the bollworm, which dealt a death blow to the industry in the 1980s.
“With BT cotton, bollworm dies once it bites the plant thereby leading to minimal damage compared to the traditional crop," said the researcher
The ground at Mathangauta village, where the trials are being undertaken, belongs to the Kalro Mwea centre. The centre manager, John Kimani, said the grounds were inadequate.