The stem borer, a nightmare pest for many maize farmers, could become a thing of the past with the adoption of genetically modified (GM) maize by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), reports the Daily Nation.
Following over 3 years of research and development, Kari says it has come up with a maize variety that it says is more resistant to crop pests such as the borer, which is responsible for up to 40% yield loss and blamed for Kenya’s dependence on maize imports; hitting the incomes of growers and impacting negatively on food security.
“Kari is pleased to announce the planting of the trial maize after years of laboratory research, as part of an approach to help Kenyan farmers fight stem borers,” said Dr Joel Mutisya, a biotechnology scientist at Kari, adding that what remains now is to test the Bt maize for its resilience.
“The maize will also be crossed with Kenyan varieties to boost its hardiness and adaptation to Kenyan growing conditions,” he added.
This is the first time the insect-resistant maize is being planted directly into the soil in an open field in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.
Before this, seeds were planted in a series of confined field stations in 2005 at Kari’s Kiboko station. The ‘open quarantine’ field trials were undertaken by the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa project.
Though there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the whole issue of adopting genetically modified crops in Kenya, local scientists say that better combinations of resistance and tolerance traits are the key to boosting maize yields among small-scale farmers, given that they are unlikely to invest heavily in intensifying production in the near future.
Source: Daily Nation, Kenya
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