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KALRO unveils new bio- control solution

The Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO) has unveiled a bio- control solution to combat the destructive striga weed that has become a threat to food security in Western Kenya and the Coastal regions.

The Organisation has already received an approval from the Kenya Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) to start commercial production of weed bio-herbicide known as ‘Kichawi Kill’, making Kenya to be the first country in the world to commercialise the weed bio-herbicide technology.

In Africa, about 50 million hectares of croplands are infested, causing 9 billion dollars in crop loss annually.

Striga is a destructive and invasive parasitic weed that attacks roots of staple crops such as maize, sorghum, millet, cowpeas and upland rice and can cause up to 100 percent crop yield losses.

According to the Director General of KALRO Dr Eliud Kireger, 1000 demonstration plots have been established and over 40 village Inoculum Producers (VIPs) have been trained in Western Kenya to start commercial production.

“In Western region alone, striga has infested over 217,000 hectares of crop land, resulting in maize losses of up to 182,227 tons per year valued at 53 million dollars (about 5.3 billion shillings),” said.

The commercialisation of the new technology is being spearheaded by Toothpick Company Limited based in Kakamega, with support from a Non-Governmental Organisation, Wethungerhilif (WWH) involves use of a cooked rice substrate.

According to plant pathologist, Dr Henry Sila Nzioki, during planting, a cap of a bottle of the inoculated rice is placed with a maize seed.

“Paired plot trials took place on 500 farms in 2014/15 with funding from Bill Gates Foundation”, he said.

“The trials showed 42-56 percent increase in yields with similar showing in the regulatory trials,” he added.

The DG said while there has been other attempts at biological control of weeds, this is the first bio-herbicide to control striga in the world to be commercialised.

This is a major milestone for agricultural research in the country and now that this bio-control product is fully approved for use after meeting stringent standards of safety and efficacy, we expect its rapid adoption will help reduce the negative impact of striga and improve food security for the country,” added Dr. Kireger.

by George Kaiga

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