Growing drought tolerant maize gives 270kg more per acre

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Claide Ong'ura in a maize demonstration farm in Kitale, Trans-Nzoia County. CIMMYT says farmers who consider drought tolerant crops are likely to harvest more than those looking at high-yielding. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.

Low rainfall farmers, who grow drought tolerant maize, can harvest an extra 270kg per acre than those who singly consider high yielding, storage pest resistance, among other factors during seed selection.

Dr Rodney Lunduka said high yields are realised from maize varieties, which withstand the effects of drought even if there is suppressed rain for six weeks during flowering.

Water is essential at flowering because it determines the formation of the maize cob, pollination hairs and the eventual grains that lead to high productivity.

“Maize yield losses double when temperatures go beyond 30 degrees Celsius and drought persists,” the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, CIMMYT, said.

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According to CIMMYT studies done in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, maize with drought tolerant characteristics pulls through the stress to give extra yields of up to 270kg per acre.

A variety with a high productivity, but cannot withstand drought of up to six weeks during flowering is suppressed because it cannot express big harvests under stress.

Harmonisation of three factors- drought tolerance, high yielding and storage pest resistance- could ensure food security.

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The expert said market penetration of such varieties has been hindered by loyalty to the old types sold by renowned companies against new and small supplier.

Some farmers have stuck to local varieties while others are still recycling planting materials.

CIMMYT is, however, engaging in media campaigns through leaflets, SMSes, and other channels to inform farmers of the benefits of drought tolerant varieties.

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The international organisation has also set up demonstration farms besides training extension officers and engaging established agrodealers to increase penetration.

It is also supporting public and private producers.