Push for small scale farmers to take up Aflasafe to control aflatoxin poisoning

The Government continues to accelerate technologies meant to alleviate the effects of aflatoxin in the agricultural sector more so on maize and groundnuts. Together with several partners, The Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) have lately intensified its efforts in promoting the use of aflasafe by small scale farmers in the country.  Aflatoxin is a poison produced by a fungus Aspergillus flavus that resides in the soil and infects crops in the field with the most susceptible crops being maize and groundnuts. The poison causes diseases such as liver cancer, suppresses the immune system, retards growth and development in children and other health problems.

Speaking during an aflasafe dissemination workshop, KALRO Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger said one of the measures is the development and use of product dubbed ‘Aflasafe KE01’ which is a biological control agent that suppresses aflatoxin producing fungi in the soil.

“This product which is made up of four native isolates has demonstrated a high efficacy of up to 98 percent in the reduction of aflatoxin contamination in maize and has the ability to maintain low or no contamination both at pre and postharvest period,” he explained.

Dr. Kireger said the move comes after the losses the farmers, traders and other agencies incurred when contaminated grains were condemned which had a multiplier effect including decreased animal production, the cost of decontamination and disposal of contaminated produce.

Aflasafe is applied through broadcasting at a rate of 4kg per acre. The right stage of applying aflasfae is 2-3 weeks before flowering. For maize, this is between 6 and 7 inter node stage (the interval or part between two nodes of a stem). Sufficient soil moisture is required for optimal performance of alfasafe. Under normal growing conditions, the available soil moisture is sufficient for optimum performance. Ensure that aflasafe stays on the soil surface. Experts’ advice to farmers is not to carry out any operation that will bury the product in the soil after application.

 “Aflatoxin contamination also acts as a nontariff barrier to local, regional and international trade since the region where the suspect produce was detected automatically lost marketing prospects or underwent extreme scrutiny,” he noted.

Uptake of Aflasafe by small scale farmers has been minimal. Dr. Kireger observed that there is an urgent need to push for the adoption of Aflasafe products through a contract agreement with Koppert Biological Limited under the Public Private Partnership (PPP). He said the dissemination workshop was geared towards understanding the findings and an evaluation on the effectiveness, demand and scaling potential for Aflasafe in Kenya specifically in Meru and Tharaka Nithi Counties, which are some of the worst hit areas.

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