By George Munene
Kenya has launched the first commercialised biological herbicide, Kichawi Kill, that decimates the deadly parasitic Striga weed and improves maize yields by 50 per cent.
The herbicide was developed by Toothpick Company Limited, a social enterprise based in Kakamega in conjunction with KALRO Katumani. Proof of concept tests ran for 12 years involving 500 farmers in Maseno, Kenya resulted in 50 per cent increased maize output in the long rains season and 40 per cent in the short rain season.
Per the International maize and wheat improvement center Strigahermonthica, colloquially known as Kanyongo or Witchweed, affects over 340,000 hectares of Kenya’s farmland and causes losses of over one billion shillings annually in sub-Saharan Africa.
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According to Dorcas Kemboi, Toothpick’s Agribusiness Supervisor, Kichawi Kill (FOXY 14), will be produced under the company’s supervision and availed to farmers by registered producers at the village level in the Striga weed-infested region of Western Kenya. The company is based in and has producing hubs in the counties of Bungoma, Kakamega, Siaya and Vihiga. These producers may include registered Community-based organizations, Women Groups, Youth Groups, Faith-based Organizations, or Individual agripreneurs.
“For an eighth acre of maize, a farmer will need to apply 5 kilograms of the bioherbicide which costs Sh600. Besides it being organic, this makes it cheaper than other synthetic methods of striga control,” Dorcas explains.
Toothpick Limited will train the organic pesticide’s producers, farmers and extension agents on the proper methods of application for Kichawi Kill for best results.
Kichawi kill maize treatment results in increased maize biomass by allowing maize cobs to be fully filled as opposed to tiny cobs harvested in Striga affected maize and in extreme cases 100 per cent yield losses.
Kichawi Kill suppresses Striga’s seed bank in the soil by eliminating its seeds as soon as they germinate. Those that escape produce fewer flowers and seed capsules reducing the weed’s capacity for subsequent spread.
Striga weed remains a major problem that is difficult to control for most farmers because of its survival strategy; each Striga plant produces up to 100,000 thousand seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for 20 years waiting for suitable hosts. These include maize, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, upland rice among other susceptible crops.
Toothpick Company Limited: +254 793 600701