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Farmers to benefit from modified maize seeds

Crop By Murithi Mugo | February 19th 2021 at 05:30:00 GMT +0300
Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization scientist James Karanja and corporate communications deputy director Florida Maritim inspect damages by fall army-worm at the National Performance trial centre in Embu County. [Murithi Mugo, Standard]

Farmers across the country are set to benefit from modified maize seed varieties resistant to stem borer once the ongoing trial under the Bt Maize Project is complete.

The trial of the variety which is being spearheaded by the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in partnership with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) which is in its final stage has so far shown a high level of success.

During a media training on Monday at KALRO in Embu, James Karanja, one of the scientists in KALRO, said the new technology (Bt Technology) involves the application of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria which helps in the control of stalk borer in maize.

He said the technology has been in use globally since 1997 but Kenya adopted it in 2010 and research has been ongoing until 2019 when KALRO started the trial in maize.

The trial is expected to be concluded in August this year.

Karanja said the trial started in the lab and then extended to a greenhouse before it was done on a confined field (Confined Field Trial) whose results are very successful.

He said the results are taken to KEPHIS who is supposed to conduct an independent national trial (National Performance Trial) on the new variety.

Once the trial is successful it will be approved by the National Biosafety Authority (NBA) to see farmers use the variety during this year's short rains season.

"The technology is being used in varieties which are already in the market after realising they are being adversely affected by the pest," the officer added.

Karanja said the technology will boost food security and contribute to the Big Four agenda of food security by reducing the loss caused by pests which amount to about 20 million bags every year.

Apart from reducing the loss, he said the high-level use of pesticides which has contributed to cancer-related illnesses will drastically go down once the new technology is implemented.

In Embu the officer said the county has the capacity to cultivate 140,000 acres of maize but noted that the county has underutilised its land in maize production -- only 80,000 acres are currently under maize.

The new technology in maize which has been approved in cotton (Bt cotton) is being conducted in six counties; Kakamega, Kisumu, Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga and Busia.

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