Kenyan dryland farmers get new improved crop varieties

By Henry Neondo

The International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, ICRISAT, announced yesterday the release of a number of crop varieties that would enhance farmer's yields by between 250 and 400 per cent and cut maturity time by more than half.

Two pigeon pea varieties suitable for use in Kenya's arid and semi-arid regons, constituting about 89 per cent of Kenya's land mass, and developed in conjuction wth the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, KARI, are both draught resistant and early maturing.

ICRISAT's Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Dr Said Slim told the press that the unveiled two early maturing varieties of pigeon peas have increased farmers yields by between 1500-2000kgs per hectare compared to the 400 kg per hectare from traditional varieties.

KARI Mbaazi number 1 matures in only three months compared to the traditional variety that takes 10 months. This variety gves farmers yileds of 1500 kg per hectare compared to 400 kg per hectare for the traditional variety.

KARI Mbaazi number 2 is a medium maturing and takes just six months. This variety gives farmers yields of up to 200 kg per hectare.

He added that the varieties developed by ICRISAT also meet the taste and look that pigeon pea consumers are very sensitive to over and above the varieties' abilites to withstand the harsh conditions in the semi-arid areas. These improved varieties are already being used by farmers in Makueni region of Eastern Province.

ICRISAT has a global research and development mandate foucsed on enhanceing the livlihoods of the poor in semi-arid areas through an integreted genetic and natural resource management systems. ICRISAT's choice of research crops however is regional or determined by unique conditions in a country.

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