New tomato variety battles wilt disease

Dan-f1-tomatoes-varietyA new tomato variety resistant to bacterial wilt disease has been unveiled to Western Kenya farmers who have traditionally suffered low yields due to tired soils that are also wilt laden.

The need to mitigate the effect of bacterial wilt disease whose presence is rampant around Western Kenya especially areas near Lake Victoria has forced seed propagators to come up with a variety that could address this problem. Bacterial wilt causes tomatoes and other nightshade vegetable plants to wilt and die suddenly and with very little warning. Bacterial wilt is nearly impossible to treat once it affects the plant hence the reason for Continental seeds to devise a better tomato variety that is resistant to it.

The new seed variety which is known as Dann F1 was introduced about a year ago after successful trials in areas with soils that are laden with wilt disease. “We were pushed into seeking an alternative solution to most of our farmers from the humid lake region with over 80 percent of soil infested by the lethal wilt disease thus curtailing their production of night shade crops like tomatoes. After successful trials in Kisumu, Kisii and Busia, we commercialized the seeds to the farmers and have been registering resounding success stories from them, explained Edward Kibalabali”, a seed expert from Continental Seed company.

The success the farmers in Western Kenya registered with the seeds has necessitated the spread of the variety across the border to the neighbouring Uganda. “Western Kenya shares a sharp similar climatical conditions with most parts of Uganda and especially the Eastern and Central regions and therefore it was obvious that the same seeds could offer solace to farmers from these areas,” noted Edward.

Apart from its’ wilt resistant capabilities, Dann F1, according to Francis Kithimba a Commercial and Technical expert from Continental seeds, offer the ideal medium fruit sizes which are easy to sort and sell off even to local markets as they are highly sort after among small traders as opposed to the huge fruits that a times are shunned in the market and call for special markets. The variety is also a quick maturing one taking about two and a half months to begin fruiting.

On average, the new variety can produce about 25-30 tonnes per acre. The retail price for the 10 gram that has about 2000 seeds is Sh2200. According to Kithimba, thousands of farmers from both countries have now embraced the seed variety after having witnessed its resistant values.

Bacterial wilt disease causes rapid wilting and death of the entire plant without any yellowing or spotting of leaves. All branches wilt at about the same time. When the stem of a wilted plant is cut across, the pith has a darkened, water-soaked appearance. There is greyish slimy ooze on pressing the stem.

In later stages of the disease, decay of the pith may cause extensive hollowing of the stem. Bacterial wilt causes no spotting of the fruits. Affected roots decay, becoming dark brown to black in colour. If the soil is moist, diseased roots become soft and slimy.