Groundnut farmers have been asked to grow newly introduced high-yielding varieties to in cash from the rising demand in animal feeds and cooking oil industries.
Egerton University Senior Lecturer Dr Joseph Wolukau says the varieties are viable economic ventures with a potential of increasing one's earnings by more than three-fold.
CG7, ICGV90704 and ICGV83708, which have been tried in Zambia and Malawi and parts of Kenya's Rift Valley, yield between 2,000kg and 3,000kg per hectare.
This harvest is way far above the traditional groundnuts, whose harvest can reach a maximum of 700kgs per hectare.
“Groundnuts are sensitive to diseases. This greatly reduces their productivity. But the new varieties have been engineered to resist or tolerate leaf diseases, which cause shedding of leaves, leading to death of the crop,” the horticultural department lecturer said.
Groundnuts are highly susceptible to viral and fungal infections.
In addition, Dr Wolukau said, the varieties do well in regions with little rainfall such as Kitui, Machakos, Taita-Taveta, Pokot, among others.
Farmers in Baringo and Elgeyo-Marakwet, are already growing the varieties, which are available in major seed stores at a cost of between Sh200 and Sh300 per kg.
CG7, ICGV90704 and ICGV83708 seeds are large, making them better raw materials for extraction of oils and the much needed proteins for animal feeds.
Cooking oil, which is extracted from other crops like sunflower and maize, is fast gaining fame in the country due to its minimal cholesterol levels.
Groundnuts are legumes, a group of crops with high protein and oil content. Livestock sector is booming as farmers interchange fresh feeds with processed ones for better yields.
“The problem with these varieties is they do not look very attractive. They do not meet the fresh roasting market standards. But their size make them better resources for other industrial uses,” he said.
International Crops Research Institute for Arid and Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been working with Egerton University in developing high-yielding seeds for farmers in low rainfall regions.
Five varieties developed by ICRISAT breeding program in Malawi were sent to Kenya for evaluation.
They were evaluated by the university through a collaborative research process and the three,CG7, ICGV90704 and ICGV83708, were selected for farmers.
The partners in the project have identified one enterprise, Greenforest Foods Company, which last year bought groundnuts worth Sh1.3 million from farmers.
The Nairobi-based food manufacturer and distribution company is planning to contract farmers to supply at least 100 metric tonnes per month.