AgTech: Drought Resistant Maize Variety

During drought, maize is particularly susceptible to pests and farmers can experience complete crop loss with devastating effects to their families.

But the good news is that the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) that was formed in 2008 to help address effects of drought and insect pest pressure in a cost effective way for African smallholder farmers is expected to bring to the market new resistant maize varieties next year.

"We are bringing to the table a new drought tolerant maize variety in the year 2013 to help save farmers from making loses," The project Manager Dr.Sylvester Oikeh said in Nairobi on Tuesday during a regional stakeholders meeting.

The forum was attended by scientists and policy makers from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique.

He disclosed that the first two varieties that were developed at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) have been undergoing viability tests at the National Performance Trials (NPT) center at Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) since 2010 are out early next year.

He said that once approved, the varieties will then be given out to seed companies to market to the farmers.

Oikeh noted that the poor African yields that has stagnated during the 1960-2010 while yields from other continents increase are set to improve tremendously.

"Appeal for food aid that has become an annual event may start reducing with the introduction of the new seed varieties as there will be increased maize volume in the market to serve additional number of consumers," he added.

He observed that the varieties are set to increase yields by 20- 35 percent and will be key to unlock the value of basic inputs to increase productivity in the continent.

Oikeh noted that Africa needs all appropriate tools in science and technology to help increase productivity and enhance food productivity since one-third of Africa's population are starving due to lack of food.

"The new varieties have the potential to increase yields under moderate drought, compared to available varieties available for farmers today," Kenya's Agriculture Secretary Dr. Wilson Songa said.

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