Smallholder farmers can control Napier stunt disease that causes losses of 40 to 90 per cent biomass yields by planting resistant varieties such as South Africa and Ouma that produces up to 100 tonnes per acre in regions that receive as little as 150mm of rainfall per annum.
More than 65 per cent of farmers in Kenya depend on the fodder to feed their livestock for improved milk production.
The two varieties were launched in February this year by the International Livestock Research Organization (ILRI) and have been given to 15 farmers in Western Kenya for free as the Kisii Agricultural Training Center prepares to produce them in bulk for sale to farmers.
Farmers can also obtain the seedlings from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization Centers in Kakamega, Kitale, Alupe and the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology.
Currently farmers are planting varieties such as French Cameroon, banana grass, Pakistan hybrid, Uganda hairless and clone 13 that are susceptible to Napier stunt disease and produces between 40 to 50 tonnes per acre per season.
Napier stunt disease is caused by bacteria spread by leaf hoppers that feed on young leaves as they move from one plant to another.
Signs of the disease include yellowing of leaves, stunted stools, drying of stunted stools and stems with shortened internodes.
Once, one notices these signs, uproot diseased Napier grass from the field as they act as source of infection.
To control the disease also plant healthy materials with one to two bottle tops per hole of tri-phosphate fertilizer or one to two handfuls of farm yard manure per hole to reduce disease pressure.
In controlling unwanted plants, weed regularly and top dress with two to three bottle tops of calcium ammonium nitrate per stool.
The two Napier grass varieties can improve milk production by 40 per cent at a time when milk production delivered to processors dropped by 17.4 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016.
In this, the quantity of milk delivered reduced from 648.2m liters to 535.7m liters.
Similarly, the quantity of processed milk and cream from processing plants decreased by 8.5 per cent and that of butter and ghee declined by 22 per cent. Production of cheese however, increased from 311.2 tonnes in 2016 to 338.3 tonnes in 2017.