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Drought resistant seeds to boost arid farming

Sorghum at a farm at Kano plains in Kisumu county on June 14, 2017. [Denish Ochieng/ Standard]

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) is in the process of developing drought-resistant seeds varieties that will be distributed to Arid and Semi-Arid (Asal) areas across the country.

The move will see counties that have predominantly depended on relief food given different seeds that are resistant to harsh weather conditions in a bid to boost food production.

Already Kalro has come up with several maize varieties that have been developed through modern technologies that will be distributed to the counties for planting.

According to Kalro Director-General Eliud Kireger, the initiative was part of wider plans to relieve counties known as food baskets while diversifying on new and modern varieties.

Kireger said Asal counties had the potential to become the next frontiers of food production if supported in new farming technology.

He termed the changes in climate coupled with global warming as a challenge that required all sectors to work together to make sure Kenyans had been fed on healthy and available food.

Kireger said a study conducted by Kalro indicated that the soil in Asal counties was fertile and only required water to produce food.

“We are planning to introduce irrigation to these counties that account for 80 per cent of the country and this will herald a new beginning in food production,” he said.

Kireger was addressing the Press during a meeting with farmers and extension officers from Asal counties on the new technological changes they intend to make at Kalro station in Naivasha. 

In July, Kalro developed two maize varieties that are resistant to the viral Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease and fall army worm.

According to Kireger, the viral disease and pest has adversely affected maize production in the country.

But the good news for farmers is that this will be a thing of the past in the coming months once the new varieties hit the market.

“Kalro has developed two maize varieties that are resistant to Maize Lethal Necrosis disease and army fall worm and we expect that this will solve the perennial problem that has faced farmers,” Dr Kireger said.

Speaking in Kalro farm in Naivasha, Kireger said they have distributed the new varieties to private companies for multiplication before making them available to farmers.

“We expect that the new breeds will hit the market by April next year and this is part of the organisation's efforts to address food security,” he said.

On tomato, the DG attributed the current pests and disease to climate change, adding that Kalro had developed good agriculture practices to manage them.

“The biggest challenge that has faced tomato farmers is the Tuta absoluta pest, but under the new farming practices this will be easily contained.” 

Kireger also revealed that Kalro, under a World Bank project, has embarked on mass production of seedlings for indigenous fruits.

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