By Zablon Oyugi
Farmers will soon benefit from a new high-yielding and drought-tolerant maize variety developed by Kenyan scientists by increasing their income, reducing risk, and improving food security.
A group of Kenyan scientists have developed a new maize variety that is high yielding and can survive hash climatic conditions especially in low rainfall regions.
According to Dr. Sylvester Elikana Anami, research lead and Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Biotechnology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the new variety known as ‘CanSen 001’ matures in five months and can yield up to 10 90k bags per acre.
“This variety is made especially for areas that receive low rainfall as it can withstand drought stress besides yielding more than the current varieties in the market,” said Anami.
This comes at a time there are talks of climate change effects on farmers especially smallholders who hardly produce enough to sustain their families or even sell.
“Innovations around new resilient seed varieties that can withstand hash climatic conditions are needful to cushion farmers from impending food insecurity as a result of climate change impacts,” said the scientist.
The scientists are drawn from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology as the lead researcher, Kenyatta University, and the Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organisation.
Awaiting field trials
The new maize variety is currently at crop management model farm stage and is awaiting various field trials.
Anami says this drought tolerant maize type is achieved through a process known as homeostasis where it is subjected to broad stress tolerance conditions, engineering the maize to enable it to have high energy use efficiency and increased balance between energy production and utilisation.
“Scientists applied RNAi and artificial microRNA, methods referred scientifically as ‘silencing strategies’ that allow the ‘isolation’ and ‘transfer’ of genes of the same crop species for the sole purpose of crop variety improvement to realise the new variety. “