Two fungi to end fodder scarcity during drought

Agricultural researchers in Kenya are banking on two fungi to increase animal feed productivity and resilience to drought and diseases.

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) experts say their recent study found that introduction of two fungi species living in African Brachiaria grass into stands can yield high quality animal feed that is resistant to leaf diseases and pests.

Brachiaria is a tropical grass also found in Kenya.

ILRI's Bioscience Eastern and Central Africa Hub-wing wants to capitalise on the micro-organisms to increase various feeds for animals during adverse times.

“BecA-ILRI Hub aims to develop methods for isolation, identification and characterization of endophytes of Brachiaria grasses, examine cultivable fungal community and use selected member(s) for enhanced adaptation of Brachiaria grasses to drought and low fertility soils,” the researchers said in a common journal published Wednesday. 

The fungi, Acremonium and Sarocladium, are known to be transmitted vertically, conferring resistance to leaf spot on the Brachiaria grass.

This bio-techniques of increasing yields comes against a sustained global campaign of adoption of environmentally sustainable  agricultural methods. 

They said these microbes will help in maximising water use efficiency, minimizing agrochemical uses and also provide high degree of persistence to plants against biotic and abiotic stresses.

There were no timelines given when the research is expected to be complete.

The report was released on the say day that Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett visited Nairobi's ILRI headquarters and thanked BecA Hub for their research aimed at countering African challenges for the last 15 years of existence.

More than 3 million pastoralist in Kenya are hit by drought annually. It is estimated that  2008-2011 drought cost the economy Sh12.1bn due to lack of pasture and water.