KENYA – The Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) researchers have released new maize varieties resistant to fall armyworms in a move to boost food security in the country.

Eliud Kireger, Director General at KALRO said the new seeds were developed to contain the spread of the dangerous migratory pest.

Fall armyworm is a destructive insect pest that poses a significant threat to over 80 crop species, including maize, rice, sorghum, and legumes.

We expect farmers to increase production in coming years once they start planting the new armyworm-tolerant varieties and eventual expansion of area under farming,” Kireger said.

This comes after the research institute, during its Second Strategic Plan 2023/24 – 2027/28 official launch on April 17, sought the private sector’s participation in commercializing innovative agricultural technologies developed by KALRO.

Our mission at KALRO is to innovate and develop superior crop varieties, while the private sector plays a crucial role in multiplying and delivering these to farmers,” explained Kireger.

According to Kireger, the National Varieties Release Committee, which is chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture approved the seeds on February 20 last year.

This followed recommendations by the National Performance Trail Committee led by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service.

The approval saw the release of FAWTH2001, FAWTH2002 and FAWTH2003 maize varieties.

“After final approval by the NVRC and eventual gazettement, the seeds will be released to commercial seed companies for production, before planting season,” Kireger said.

CIMMYT grants US$500000 to boost agriculture in Kenya

Kireger was speaking during the launch of a US$500,000 (KES 62.3 million) agricultural infrastructure, financed by donors coordinated by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CiMMYT). 

The facilities include a seed drier shed, cold room and water reservoir to support irrigation.

On his part, Prassana Boddupalli,  CiMMYT Director said the armyworm-tolerant maize varieties were realised through combined efforts of local and international research organisations.

According to him, the organisations have been working on the Plant Health Innovation Platform (PHIP) that seeks to use integrated pest management of the pests using technology.

“The maize varieties have been developed from Mexico germplasm or Cuban and they have been systematically transferred in Africa. They have passed the national performance trial by the Kephis,” said Boddupalli. 

James Karanja, a maize breeder working with Kalro said they will provide farmers with maize varieties that will address drought, pests and diseases.

“We urge seed growers to come inbound and help to multiply the seeds so that farmers can benefit from these climate-smart technologies,” he said.  

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