Kenyan Rust Disease-Resistant Wheat to Boost Production, Institute Says

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute has introduced rust disease-resistant wheat varieties that may boost crop yields, an official said.

The research center gave two wheat varieties, Robin and Ego 10, to Kenya’s seed company to reproduce, Peter Njau, the head of the Durable Rust Resistance Project, said in a phone interview today from Nairobi, the capital. The seeds successfully completed trials done from 2007 to 2009, he said.

“This year we have forwarded 3 tons of seed to Kenya Seed for multiplication,” he said. “This will bring out about 60 to 90 tons by next year.”

Farmers can lose up to 40 percent of their crop to the disease and measures to contain it have increased the cost of production by about 30 percent, according to Njau. The disease was first discovered in Uganda in 1999 and was later found in Kenya in 2001 and in Ethiopia in 2003. It comes in two forms; stem rust and stripe rust disease. Wheat rust pathogen enters the stems of the plant, destroying vascular tissue and causing it to fall over, Njau said.

“Controlling the disease is expensive and therefore small scale farmers are most affected, since most of them cannot afford the expensive fungicides,” he said.

Kenya produces about 350,000 metric tons of wheat annually, according to David Nyameino, the chief executive officer of the Kenya Cereal Growers Association.

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