Two hybrid wheat varieties that are resistant to stem rust disease are set to be released to Kenyan farmers later this year, a scientist said on Saturday.
Mandeep Randham, wheat breeder and geneticist at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre said that the two varieties, 'Kenya Jacana' and 'Kenya Kasuku' have high yields and resistant to stem rust disease known as U99.
"The varieties are currently under multiplication stage and will be released to farmers once multiplication is complete," Randham told journalists during a wheat field day in Naivasha.
Randham said that the varieties are expected to help increase hectares of wheat in the country and also to stop the spread of U99 disease that has ravages farms since entering Uganda in 1999.
He said that additional six new hybrid varieties are currently undergoing the National Performance Trials.
The scientist noted that the wheat varieties that have been released in the eastern and southern African regions in 2005-2016 have showed high resistance to U99 race.
He added that the increase in wheat production in Kenya that rose from 350,000 metric tons to 500,000 metric tons this year is proof that scientists are fast managing the devastating disease.
According to the scientist, wheat stem rust is one of the most damaging diseases of wheat from the 50 diseases that are associated with wheat.
He said that the disease that can turn a healthy crop into a failed crop in the last weeks to harvest spreads so fast over a long distance by wind and human transmission.
"Trials that have been going on in Kenya and Ethiopia have been successful because of the germplasm that has been acquired from other countries that have gone through the same problem," he added.
Randham called on countries in eastern and southern African countries to put emphasis on wheat research by ensuring that surveillance is done regularly to keep off the damaging disease.
A new race of stem rust disease was first spotted in Uganda in 1999 and nicknamed U99 spread in the regional countries like bush fire destroying wheat fields.