KEPHIS Headquarters, Nairobi- Seventeen varieties of crops have been released to boost efforts towards the Government’s Big 4 Agenda pillar for nutrition and food security.
Three varieties of maize, 3 varieties of Brachiaria, 2 varieties of soybean, 1 variety each of potato, Triticale, French bean, sunflower and garden pea were made available for multiplication by seed merchants and eventually to Kenyan farmers to grow thus enhance food availability.
The National Variety Release Committee, who are responsible for the approval of crop varieties for multiplication, advised that the varieties are high yielding, suitable for various agro ecological zones around the country and tolerant to pests and diseases. Soy bean, for example, has the special attributes of high protein and oil content. It has been targeted for the oil industry and livestock feed due to its growing demand. Sunflower was also released and is good for livestock feed production. The French bean variety released has been developed for the export market. The maize varieties released are high yielding hybrids and have wide adaptations over regions with good lodging resistance. Potato is the second most important food crop after maize in Kenya and the variety released has high resistance to Phytophthora, has a long storage period and is suitable for making French fries.
The registration and release of new varieties leads to gazzettment and listing of superior high yielding varieties with better agronomic traits, such as disease resistance and stress tolerance resulting in increased incomes for farmers and enhancing food security.
The overall aim of the release system is to transfer new varieties from research stations to farmers’ fields, while making a reliable assessment of their value for farmers. After approval of these varieties, breeders and seed companies are expected to ensure seed certification and commercialization of the varieties to allow farmers to benefit and contribute to food security in the country.
Plant breeding has the ability to significantly contribute in resolving some of the agricultural challenges such as food security, hunger alleviation and increasing nutritional values which help in mitigating the effects of population growth and climate change.
Increase in agricultural production and productivity depends, to a large extent, on the development of new and improved crop varieties and efficient system of their delivery at affordable prices to farmers. The aim of plant breeding is therefore to deliver improved varieties which have superior attributes in terms of yield, diseases and pest resistance/tolerance.
The newly released varieties have undergone National Performance Trials(NPTs) and Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability(DUS) assessments, where the former aims to determine the agronomic potential and adaptability of a new crop variety, while the latter is a descriptive test that determines whether a variety is distinct from other previously released varieties, grows consistently when planted over several seasons and is stable over seasons of growth. This process ensures that the varieties has merit for cultivation, and qualify for certification and commercialization.
Left: Soybean and right, a crop of maize. Two varieties of soybean and three varieties of maize were released (made available for multiplication) by the National Variety Release Committee at a meeting held recently.
Plant breeding has the ability to significantly contribute in resolving some of the challenges ahead such as food security, hunger alleviation and increasing nutritional values which will help in mitigating the effects of population growth and climate change.