Seed innovations target Big 4 Agenda

Farmers often ignore the short rains season (October to December) yet it presents an opportunity to take advantage of the short term crops to boost their food reserves or build surplus for markets 

Innovations showcased by companies at this year’s just-ended Nairobi International Trade Fair focused on how best new technologies can help improve the nutritional status of crops, boost food security and add value to  farm products.

Farmers were also advised to plant short-term season crops during the October-December period. “The latest developed high-yielding, drought and disease-tolerant seed varieties, vegetables and pastures suit various ecological zones so as to sustain food security,”  said Simlaw Seeds Marketing and sales manager, Robert Musyoki.

According to Musyoki, the older farmers continue to engage in outdated farming practices while climate change has disrupted traditional rain and drought cycles. “We cannot go far if we fail to come up with smart innovations to encourage young people to embrace farming. Weather unreliability demands that we come up with seeds that can survive in different ecological zones,” said Musyoki who specialises in horticulture research.

Besides food security agenda, Musyoki says they put into account the nutritional component of indigenous vegetable seeds able to improve health of consumers and to help fight diseases such as cancer and even HIV/Aids,” Musyoki explained at the Kenya Seed/ Simlaw Seeds stand  during the trade fair that ran from October 1 to 7 at Jamhuri Park.

Kenya Seeds — the mother company of Simlaw Seeds— recently released a new tomato variety into the market. Tomato Nyota F1 is a medium to large fruit with lots of juice and a long shelf-life of two to three weeks. Muysoka says it is tolerant to bacterial wilt and leaf curl virus. “This high-yielding tomoto is tolerant to heat and is widely adaptable,” he said.

Farmers from Central Kenya will also in the next planting season access a new maize variety suitable for the ecological region. Kenya Seed sales and marketing manager, Sammy Kiplagat Chepsiror says the new high yielding maize variety is suitable for the highlands. The 6219 variety can yield 58 bags of 90kg per acre compared to the current 6218 maize variety that produces 56 bags an acre.

Chepsiror said dwindling land sizes, changing weather patterns and poor soils are increasingly making it difficult for farmers to not only maximise their yields but also produce crops of high quality. “The new variety  is high yielding, stable in the soil, has a  strong stem and is resistant to diseases, especially the maize streak virus,”  he said.

He said that as a seed company, they are determined to contribute directly to food security in President Kenyatta’s  governments Big Four agenda. Given the onset of the short rains season, farmers often lack information about the best maize varieties to plant.

Chepsiror said farmers often ignore the short rains of between September and December yet it presents an opportunity to take advantage of the short season crops to boost their food reserves or build surplus for the market.

Short season crops are bred for the medium and low altitude areas of up to 1,600 metres above sea level and areas that receive around 800 mm of rain.

These short season varieties include the WH507  by Western Seed Company, KH500-33A from  Freshco and Kh500 – 43A from East African Seed Compnay. They do well in areas that include Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Kisii, Homa Bay, Suba, Migori Rongo, Siaya, Bondo, Tinderet, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Sotik, Trans Mara, Murang’a, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Machakos, Kitui, Mwingi.

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