Kenya leads the World in Commercializing Weed Bio-Herbicide Technology
The country has achieved yet another first, after the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO) unveiled a weed bio-control solution, which got the approval of the Kenya Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), to be produced commercially.
The bio-herbicide known as ‘Kichawi Kill’ provides a solution to combat the destructive striga weed that has become a threat to food security in the Western and Coastal regions of the country has gotten an approval from
Striga is a destructive and invasive parasitic weed that attacks roots of staple crops such as maize, sorghum, millet, cowpeas and upland rice and has capacity to cause up to 100 percent crop yield losses.
According to the Director General of KALRO Dr Eliud Kireger, in Western region alone, striga has infested over 217,000 hectares of crop land, resulting in maize losses of up to 182,227 tons per year valued at 53 million dollars (about 5.3 billion shillings)
Dr Kireger indicated that 1000 demonstration plots have been established and over 40 Village Inoculum Producers (VIPs) have been trained in Western Kenya to start commercial production of the herbicide.
The commercialisation of the new technology is being spearheaded by Toothpick Company Limited based in Kakamega, with support from a Non-Governmental Organisation, Wethungerhilif (WWH) and it involves the use of a cooked rice substrate.
According to plant pathologist, Dr Henry Sila Nzioki, during planting, a cap of a bottle of the inoculated rice is placed with a maize seed. “The trials recorded a 42-56 percent increase in yields with similar results showing in the regulatory trials,” he said, adding that paired plot trials took place on 500 farms in 2014/15 with funding from Bill Gates Foundation.
Dr. Kireger said that while there have been other attempts at biological control of weeds, this is the first bio-herbicide to control striga and that it was the first in the world to be commercialised.
“This is a major milestone for agricultural research in the country and now that this bio-control product is fully approved for use after meeting stringent standards of safety and efficacy, we expect its rapid adoption will help reduce the negative impact of striga and improve food security for the country,” added Dr. Kireger.
In Africa, about 50 million hectares of croplands are infested by the striga weed, causing approximately 9 billion dollars in crop loss annually.