State sanctions sale of local biotech maize, sorghum varieties

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As a way of improving yields, the government has finally sanctioned the sale of locally developed biotech maize and sorghum varieties that are drought- and pest-resistant.
Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) acting managing director Esther Kimani said the 17 maize varieties would now be sold to farmers for commercial use after a rigorous process showed the varieties were also weed-resistant.
The notice published in the latest Kenya Gazette said five fast-maturing varieties named Kalro Katumani, jointly developed by the Nairobi-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (Cimmyt), Monsanto Company and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation were suitable for eastern, Nyanza and central regions.
Its special attributes include proven resistance to drought, major leaf diseases and maize streak virus, where the yields were estimated at between six to seven tonnes per hectare.
Monsanto/AATF have received patents for three varieties recommended for growing in moist-medium, mid-altitude and high altitude areas in eastern, central and Rift Valley regions that are drought and disease resistant.
Monsanto Kenya Ltd also holds the sole licence to market its two early maturing maize varieties recommended for growing in western and parts of Rift Valley, with an estimated yield of five to eight tonnes per hectare.
WEED MENACE
Western Kenya farmers’ woes over the parasitic weed striga could be over following release of three varieties developed using the StrigaAway maize control technology.
Maseno University and Prof Mathew Dida hold a licence to sell two striga resistant varieties while Elgon, Freshco, Seedco and Agric Seed Company Ltd have a permit each to propagate and sell maize seeds development by Cimmyt.
The dreaded striga weed produces hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant, leading to a massive build-up in the soil that can remain viable for more than 20 years adversely affecting maize production in Western region.

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