KEPHIS unveils 140 new disease resistant seed varieties

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has unveiled 140 new disease resistant and fast maturing seed varieties to cushion farmers against losses and boost food security in the arid and semi-arid areas. The new varieties of seeds released include maize, beans, sunflower, sorghum and potatoes, which are tolerant to the maize lethal necrosis disease. 

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KEPHIS Managing Director Esther Kimani (Left) with Deputy President William Ruto during the launch of a Sh250m laboratory complex to test produce/PHOTO/KEPHIS

According to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Kenya loses 10 per cent of the maize produced annually to lethal necrosis disease which has ravaged thousands of acres of maize in most parts of Kenya including, Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley and Central.

“The varieties introduced are drought tolerant, early maturing and superior to the ones currently in the market” said Dr. Esther Kimani, KEPHIS Managing Director.

With the introduction of the new seed varieties, the government through the ministry of agriculture will phase out old crop varieties that have been in the market for more than 10 years.

“We will be working with our research institutions such and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to phase out varieties which are not adding value to farmers,” said agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe who was speaking at a press conference in Naivasha last week.

“The process will be done systematically through capacity building and awareness creation so that farmers are informed on the varieties that will no longer be in the market”

Maize varieties which have been in the market for so long with decreasing yields year in year out include but are not limited to H622, H511, H614, H611, H612D, Kat CB and H513.

Smallholder farmers are also set to benefit from the launch of a new Sh250m laboratory complex by KEPHIS which seeks to ensure fertilizers, seeds; water and soil are tested before use. Testing is important as it enables farmers increase yields and reduce risks associated with inadequate knowledge on the best applicable farming practices.

Speaking while opening the complex which was funded by KEPHIS in partnership with the European Union, Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto termed the project as a milestone which will boost food security.