By George Munene
Farmers in Bondo and Rarieda sub-counties of Siaya have been issued with 10,000 seedlings of the fungal resistant Raja F1 tomato variety.
According to a Journal of Natural Sciences Research study on Tomato Diseases Occurrence in Kenya; 91 per cent of farmers observed fungal wilting infection on their tomatoes with 57.8 per cent of sampled respondents recording yield losses of 1-10 per cent. To control the fungus 40.6 per cent of farmers uprooted their diseased plants while 21.8 per cent of them sprayed with chemicals incurring extra costs and bearing losses.
The seedlings donated to the county by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has shown great resistance to most fungal diseases. Common tomato diseases such as fusarium and bacterial wilt pose little danger to the tomatoes; preventive treatment with fungicides is usually minimal or not carried out. The variety has also demonstrated tolerance for late tomato blight.
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Per the study, the most injurious diseases to farmer profits were early blight and late blight at 53.8 per cent.
These diseases, according to the county’s director for agriculture, Vincent Okoth, have greatly hampered tomato production in the county forcing traders to import tomatoes from neighbouring counties. Raja F1 is expected to mitigate such losses for farmers.
Raja F1 has a yielding potential of 10 kg of tomatoes per plant making it suited to both home based and commercial production. It is also an early mature, at just 65 days, compared to other varieties such as the popular Anna F1 that develops in 75 days.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Odhiambo, the county’s executive committee member for Agriculture, this is the first step of a collaborative effort between KALRO and the regions county governments in researching on and finding crop varieties suited to their counties.
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If the pilot scheme proves successful KALRO hopes to avail the seedlings throughout the county and to other farmers across the country with a particular focus on the Nyanza region whose production potential is curtailed by unavailability of tomato varieties suited to the region.