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Seed Co introduces new maize variety tolerant to lethal necrosis disease

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Seed Co, a company that develops and markets certified crop seeds, mainly hybrid maize seed has introduced a new maize variety that is tolerant to the maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND).

“The new maize variety KATEH 01 was developed over a period of three years since 2016 by Seed Co in collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural Research Organization and has been approved by the Kenya Plant Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) but is under multiplication before being released to the market,” said Evans Maranga, a research technician at Seed Co.

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Maize is the staple food crop in Kenya accounting for about 65 per cent of the total food consumption. The new variety therefore  comes as a relief for farmers with statistics from the ministry of agriculture indicating that 37.9mbags of maize, majority of these from smallholder farmers were harvested in 2017, a 4.4 per cent drop from the projected 40m bags.

The decline in overall production was attributed to reduction in area under maize by 5.1 per cent, late rainfall onset coupled with long dried spells mid-season, maize lethal necrosis disease and fall army worm invasion.

MLND kills plants before they can grow and the pathogens are usually transmitted by insects or contaminated seed. Some of notable symptoms of this virus in maize include mild severe mottling on the leaves, usually starting from the base of young leaves in the whorl and extending upwards towards the leaf tips.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that the first signs of the disease were reported in Longisa, Bomet County in September 2011 further spreading to other parts such as Nyamira, Kisii, Naivasha, Narok, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Busia and parts of Eastern region (Embu and Meru).

The new variety is under trials by farmers in Magwagwa and Bokeira wards of Nyamira County. Initially, farmers in the region planted various maize seed varieties such as H6213 and H614 but lost nearly half of their crops due to MLND according to Thomas Nyamongo, an agricultural extension officer in the area.

“From my own sampling in the region, I have seen farmers who have lost roughly three quarters of their crops due to the disease and had to uproot all the their crops,” said Nyamongo.

KATEH 01 does well in areas with receiving low rainfall such as Borabu, Trans Mara, Longisa and Emurua Dikirr. It matures within five months with potential yields of 30 to 35 bags per acre.

Seedco can be reached on 0726990624.

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