Maize breeders’ and researchers from KARLO view the new maize hybrid that is resistant to the Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) viral disease that has wreaked havoc across the country. KARLO researchers from Naivasha have also twenty others hybrids that are resistant to drought.
Researchers have developed eight maize varieties that are resistant to the lethal necrosis viral disease.
Farmers have something to smile about despite the crisis facing the sector.
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation yesterday said the disease has been wiping out maize plantations in the South and North Rift — the bread baskets of the country.
Kalro plant breeder James Karanja said the hybrids have been tested and will fix the problem in counties still facing the crisis such as Bomet.
The researchers have also come up with 20 hybrids that are drought-tolerant and can double production. Seed companies have launched certification and licensing. Farmers will, therefore, wait for about two years before they are rolled out.
The hybrids can produce up to eight tonnes per acre, compared to the old varieties’ three tonnes, Karanja said during a field day for seed firms in Kalro farm, Naivasha.
QualiBasic Seed Company’s Wycliffe Ingoi said the varieties will enable farmers to incur less production costs but earn more.
“The challenge farmers currently experience is the army worm that has affected the whole country. We’re seeking a solution to this,” he said.
Stephen Mugo from CIMMYT said the drought-tolerant variety could produce up to five tonnes, but, with water, this could rise to eight tonnes an acre.
“The biggest challenge that farmers have faced is supply of low-quality seeds and diseases, which lead to poor yields. The new varieties will solve this,” he said.
This comes as farmers grapple with other problems such as market for their harvests. The sector has been rocked by a crisis. National Cereals and Produce Board officers have been charged with irregular payment of suppliers. Some growers have not been paid.
There have also been concerns over how the government-subsidised fertiliser is distributed. Farmers claim some individuals hijack the process, buy all fertiliser and mix it with imported fakes before selling to them. This hurts production and profitability and prompts some to quit maize farming, they say.