Farmers asked to take up new armyworm-resistant maize seeds

New maize varieties resistant to the deadly armyworm have been released researchers.

Director General Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation Eliud Kireger said the new seeds were developed to stop the spread of the dangerous migratory pest.

The National Varieties Release Committee, chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture approved the seeds on February 20, 2023 after recommendations by the National Performance Trail Committee led by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service.

This led to the release of FAWTH2001, FAWTH2002 and FAWTH2003 maize varieties.

However, farmers will only access the hybrid varieties during the short rains season.

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

Farmers in some counties lost entire crops following an attack by armyworms in 2017 and from then the farmers have been realizing food reduction as a result of the pest.

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Statistics show that armyworms cause losses of approximately one million tons of maize every year.

The director general made the remarks during the launch of KSh62.3 million agricultural infrastructure.

Donors financed the infrastructure in coordination with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CiMMYT).

The director general said, “The facilities include a seed drier shed, cold room and water reservoir to support irrigation. 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.”

CiMMYT director Prassana Boddupalli, on his part noted that the maize varieties were developed as a result of combined efforts of local and international research organisations.

“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,” Boddupalli said.

“Kenya survived the worst drought situation in 2022, but development of the climate resilient seed varieties will help greatly in taming the drought impacts.  And in the long run will increase farmers’ income and production.”

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

By our reporter

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