Farmer tames blight with herbs

IrishpotatoesNairobiASKShow2016KALROLaban.JPG

One Kirinyaga County farmer is turning local herbs into remedy against potato blight disease, which has proven hard to control with commercial chemicals.

Maina Ernest mixes 10 herbs, which he pounds together before dusting the seeds or other growing materials with the powder before planting.

He calls the powder the ‘Golden seed wood’. He, however, did not reveal the names of the herbs.

Blight is a symptom of a fungal disease that attacks crops in the solanaceae family including pepper, capsicum, Irish and sweet potatoes, nightshade, among others.

The fungus is called Altermaria solani.

Blight causes leaf chlorosis, browning of crop parts such as twigs and flowers before death. It spreads rapidly and it is not easily controlled by chemicals; it is only managed.

 “I have repeatedly tried the concoction and found it working.  I am currently growing   about 50 Irish potato stems at my orchard and they are diseases free. It is the same place where they used to die before flowering every time,” he said.

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Maina said a few farmers from his Kerugoya home have tested the powder and found it effective against the Irish potato blight.

In application, Maina said seeds or tubers for propagation are dusted with the power before planting in the nursery or seed bed.

“Herb gives a holistic protection to the crops. One cannot isolate the active ingredients that protect the crop from the blight. I was just trying to solve the problem,” he said.

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Maina said harvests are high since the crops will not be struggling to survive the attack.

However, there has not been any scientific proof that indeed the pathogens behind the blight can be suppressed by the golden seed wood concoction of Maina.

PHOTO: Irish potatoes at a Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation's demonstration farm at the Jamhuri Show Ground during the Nairobi International Agricultural Society of Kenya Show of 2016. A Kirinyaga farmer has come up with a mixture of herbs, which he says, have helped him control potato blight, a fungal infection affecting solanaceae family crops. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.

Maina can be reached on +254722752562