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    Farmers can now detect crop diseases and deficiency of important nutrients such as phosphorus thanks to the launch of a new app called Eska developed by botanist and biochemist, Samuel Kamya.

    The app which was launched in December 2017 is available on android devices. Once installed, the user taps on the icon labeled Eska, it will then access the phone's back camera and when the plant under study is scanned, it displays the results on the screen.

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    “Given my background as a botanist, I wanted to do something to improve farming. I discovered that for a farmer looking to earn from his harvest, he would have to overcome pest infestation, attack by diseases and nutrient losses so that he sell his produce,” said Kamya.

    “I understood that these problems could be solved using software. So we developed an app that is powered by artificial intelligence to identify diseases, infections or nutrient deficiencies in crops,”

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    Traditionally, the farmer would invite a trained agronomist or send samples to either a national or a private lab, wait for a week or a couple of days for the results.

    Thus, farmers can benefit from the app by monitoring their crops for fungal or bacterial infections; this will help them quarantine and deal with the infection decisively. They can choose to destroy infected plants before they spread the infection any further.

    If the plant is not severely affected the farmer can apply fungicides on it without spraying the whole garden. In this, the farmer saves on fungicides and pesticides while practicing a sustainable form of agriculture with the least impact on the environment.

    The application can also spot nutrient deficiencies, which allows the farmer to apply the lacking nutrients in a timely manner without risking mineral toxicity.

    Some nutrient deficiencies are due to either acidic or highly alkaline soils. The soils are acidic when they are below (pH 5.5) and alkaline (above pH 7.8) which in turn affects the uptake of several other mineral nutrients. With the results, farmers can proceed to either add lime to raise the soil pH or sulfur to lower it.

    Also, the farmer can adequately prepare his soil for the next season's crop, by investigating if there are any present weeds and for clues on what nutrients the particular soils are lacking. This way, the farmer gets an opportunity to apply corrective measure before planting.

    The Eska app is therefore the ultimate companion tool for the small holder farmer. It saves one from future and present headaches.

    More information on the app can be found on https://wp.me/P8vPPS-2

     

     

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    Smallholder farmers in Kenya can save up to Sh7000 per cow on treatment costs by keeping the Fleckvieh dual purpose cow which can be used for both beef and milk production.

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    The breed is less prone to mastitis and rarely contracts the disease compared to other cow breeds which often contract the disease.Due to Fleckvieh’s low somatic (dead) cells, she  is also tolerant to attack by ticks and tsetseflies due to its thick skin.

    Mastitis is a bacterial disease caused by poor hygiene. It occurs when somatic cells are released into the mammary glands in response to the invasion of the teat canals by bacteria. The disease causes a drop in milk production by at least 50 per cent and sometimes infected cows have to be culled.

    Fleckvieh was introduced in Kenya by Fleckvieh East Africa in 2009 and has been adopted by approximately 20,000 farmers however over 300,000 small scale dairy farmers in Kenya keep the common breeds which include Friesian, Jersey, Guernsey, Zebu, Sahiwal and Ayrshire among others.

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    Fleckvieh dairy cattle 

    Fleckvieh produces less milk and is consistent in production; but it requires less feed to produce the same amount of milk as a Holstein-Fresian. Therefore, it is a more efficient cow” said Dr.Anthony Wanjohi of Fleckvieh Genetics East Africa

    The cow produces 25 to 30 liters on first calving, 30 to 35 liters on second calving and 35 to 40 liters at its peak.

    If a Holstein Friesian cow is fed 60kgs of feed for instance it would produce the same amount of milk equal to the Fleckvieh cow which will is also fed on 45kg of the similar feed. With one kilogram of dairy meal averaging Sh30, farmers can save Sh450 by keeping this type of cow.

    Dr Wanjohi advises farmers to crossbreed Fleckvieh with other dairy breed to improve the calf’s traits. Hybrid bulls from Fleckvieh and others for example mature faster and gain 300kg of weight within three quarters of a year and can be sold by farmers to earn extra income.

    High quality semen for artificial insemination can be obtained from Fleckvieh East Africa at Sh400 to Sh800 depending on the type of bull.

    A mature bull weighing 500kg can earn farmers between Sh80,000 to Sh100,000 while heifers at 10 to 14 months fetch the same amount of money.

    Fleckvieh Genetics East Africa can be reached on +254 712 095 555 or +254 727 665 885.

     

     

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    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.

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