Counties urged to support fight against lethal worm affecting maize

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Kenya Seed MD Azariah Soi as he spoke to journalists at the company offices in Kitale

TRANS NZOIA COUNTY. As farmers across the country continue with the planting season, devolved governments have been urged to join in the fight against a new deadly worm that has been discovered within parts of the country affecting maize.

Kenya’s leading seed manufacturing company Kenya Seed managing director Azariah Soi said that the thriller Fowl Army Worm has been discovered and is affecting maize in Trans Nzoia and parts of Kisii Counties and is capable of wiping whole crops in a farm once it finds its way in one’s farm.

“I want to take this opportunity to call upon the county governments to move in and assist farmers especially to deal with an emerging pest known as fowl army worm that has been spotted in some farms here in Trans Nzoia and parts of Kisii counties,” said the MD.

He said that the effects the worm causes is likely to lead to food insecurity in the country if it is not controlled in its early stages.

“It is a very vicious worm that attacks maize and it can wipe all the crops and we can easily be exposed to food insecurity if we do not take action,” said Soi.

He noted that since agriculture is a devolved function, it is therefore upon the county governments to move with speed and secure the farms through technical advice, the right chemicals to deal with the worm among other measures so that the gains that have already been made as far as pest control is concerned do not go to waste.

However, he noted that the Kenya Seed company is already taking precautionary measures in controlling the worm as it produces the seed but the devolved governments need to take up full responsibility.

“We as a company, we are taking measures to ensure that the seed that we are growing is covered and we are working with other stakeholders to identify the right chemicals to use to control this worm that has also been reported in other countries,” he added.

He revealed that the worm had been spotted in other countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia among others that have had unpleasant experiences as far as the attack by the worm on the maize is concerned.

New maize varieties to resist maize disease

At the same time the MD, who was addressing journalists at the company’s boardroom in Kitale, said that the company has established two new varieties of maize that are resistant to the maize lethal necrotic disease that had affected maize in many parts of the South Rift, North Rift and even Central Rift and even Western Kenya.

The Kenya Seed headquarters in Kitale
The Kenya Seed Company headquarters in Kitale

“As a company we have come up with two new maize varieties that are tolerant to the Maize Lethal Necrotic disease that hit most parts of the Rift and even other parts of Western Kenya and therefore come next year we will have sufficient seed of these two varieties that are as a result of research by our scientists of this country, Kenya Seed and KARLO and other stakeholders in research, to come up with varieties that can tolerate such diseases to ensure that Kenya is food secure,” Soi said.

Enough seed available to farmers for this season

The MD further assured that the company had produced enough seed for farmers across the country to plant various varieties of crops ranging from maize, finger millet, beans and sorghum among other crops during the entire planting season.

He said that the company produced 30 million kilos of seed of various varieties ranging from the highlands, from the medium altitude areas and from the lowlands and the Coast region that has been distributed across the country through its agencies.

“So far we have done over 80 per cent of what is required of the season in the market across the country now and the remaining part of the season between now and May we would have supplied the remaining amount of seed,” he said.

He further urged farmers to secure their seed and take advantage of the prevailing rains to take advantage and move fast to secure the seed and plant.

Kenya Seed MD Azariah Soi (C) as he addressed journalists accompanied by senior officers of the company
Kenya Seed MD Azariah Soi (C) as he addressed journalists accompanied by senior officers of the company

The MD further advised that farmers can go for early maturing varieties such as Hybrid 513, Hybrid DH 04 and DH 02 bearing in mind that this year is a tricky one due to the unpredictable rain patterns.

“We also want to assure the country that we have enough seed come next year because apart from what we have given out this year, we have seed being grown currently in Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and other places both under rain-fed and under irrigation where we are targeting over 4000 acres of land under irrigation this time so that we ensure we have enough seed for the next two years so that there is no shortage of seed,” Soi said.

He also appreciated the support from the government through the Ministry of Agriculture for the subsidized fertilizer and other farm inputs that have reduced the cost of production by the farmers.