Kenya becomes first country globally to commercialize weed bio-herbicide technology

KENYA – The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), has unveiled a bio- control solution to combat the destructive striga weed that has become a threat to food security in Kenya and the larger Africa region.

The organisation has already received an approval from the Kenya Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) to start commercial production of the weed bio-herbicide known as ‘Kichawi Kill’, making Kenya to be the first country in the world to commercialise the weed bio-herbicide technology.

According to the state-owned research institution, it has been working with a social enterprise Toothpick Company Limited (TCL), registered in 2018 to undertake the successful commercialization of the herbicide with guidance from the German NGO Welhungerhilfe (WHH).

TCL hosted demonstration plots on nearly 1,000 farms and trained over 40 village inoculate producers who will set up their own micro-enterprises.

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The registration and commercialization of Kichawi Kill follows decade long collaborative research between KALRO and Montana State University (MSU -USA) that began in 2008.

“As Kenya enters the long-rain seasons, these producers are currently taking Kichawi Kill orders from farmers for the inaugural commercial season.

“TCL will be using this season to work closely with the inoculant producers to reach as many farmers as possible and plan for expansion in future seasons,” said KALRO’s Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger.

The registration and commercialization of Kichawi Kill follows decade long collaborative research between KALRO and Montana State University (MSU -USA) that began in 2008.

In other related news, KALRO has received a donation of 23 assorted and specialised equipment worth Ksh9.2 million (US$83,900) for digitization of plant breeding programs, from Excellence in Breeding (EiB) under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Dr. Kireger said the equipment will be distributed to the research organisation centres -Kitale, Katumani, Njoro, Mwea and Tigoniand to complement the ongoing initiative to digitise historical data.

“We have been using old traditional equipment and now we will be able to fast-track the whole process and make it more efficient, cheap and more accurate,” Dr Kireger

He added, “The modern equipment will go a long way in ensuring that breeders are able to undertake their work faster, more accurately and ensure food security and higher productivity of crops as well as benefit farmers.”

According to CGIAR -EIB Coordinator Biswanath Das, developing crop varieties that will respond to challenges of climate change, increased drought and temperatures, different distribution of pest and disease ought to be the new norm in terms of increased food production.

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“This therefore emphasises of the importance of modernisation of the breeding programmes,” he said.

The machines will be used in maize, wheat, rice, sorghum, beans, and potato breeding programs.

It is expected that the equipment used in breeding production will contribute to increase and availability of high yielding and disease resistant seeds to small-scale farmers who for long have been recycling their harvested crops into planting seeds.

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