KALRO experts at a rice field at the lake region, new rice are set to boost farmers' production at low cost.

KALRO introduces new early maturing rice varieties, aims at boosting farmers’ production

The Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) has introduced two new rice varieties that mature in 85-120 days as opposed to 150 days of common varieties in the market with an aim to boost farmers’ production.

According to Finyange Pole, KALRO’s Industrial Crop Research Institute Director, the two varieties 08FAN10 (Mkombozi) and CSR 36, are set to be released for wider use by farmers in June.

The new varieties were developed in conjunction with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA).

“These new varieties can also be grown in poorer soils with minimal moisture and are resistant to common rice pests and diseases in Kenya thus can double the production of rice cultivars currently grown by farmers,” said Pole at the institution centre in Homa Bay County.

He added that the organisation is also training farmers on a new planting technology called Direct Seed Rice.

“Instead of farmers first raising rice seeds in a nursery before transplanting, with this technology you’ll just plant the rice directly on the farm as a seed. This will greatly save farmers time and labor,” he said.

According to IRRI findings, CSR 36 demonstrates the potential to yield between 5.5 and 6.0 tons per hectare even in sodic soil conditions, which are typified by their hardness, cloddiness, and high pH levels, resulting in hindered plant growth and germination. 

In comparison, Basmati 3700, a commonly grown local variety, only manages to yield between 2.4 and 3.8 tons per hectare when facing similar stressful environmental conditions.

“These findings show that the variety is tolerant to these sodic soil conditions. Other than its salinity tolerance, CSR 36 is also medium-maturing, aromatic, has long and thin grains, softens when cooked, is non-sticky, and has ratooning ability. These characteristics closely reflect the preferences of farmers and consumers. Hence, it is anticipated that if demonstrated and positioned well, the variety will be extensively grown in the nation. This follows a similar adoption trend in the Komboka rice variety, where there was a significant growth in the variety’s area of cultivation from roughly 40 to 4,435 acres across the country from 2019-2021,” read the statement by ILLRI.

Kenya currently produces just 200,000 metric tons of rice annually against a projected demand of 800,000 metric tons. This necessitates the importation of over 600,000.

According to LBDA managing director Wycliffe Ochiaga, this gap can only be bridged by growing high yield rice varieties and employing new and innovative farming techniques.

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Source:By Zablon Oyugi