By Gift Briton

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation(KALRO), has developed five maize varieties to help maize farmers overcome the challenges of fall armyworm(FAW) pest, maize lethal necrosis(MLN) disease and drought.

The five varieties include MLN(SC439), KDH414-12(UKAMEZ), FAWTH2003, FAWTH2002, and FAWTH2001, with the suitability of each variety depending on the farmer’s interest.

MLN is an early maturing (4-5 months) maize variety that is tolerant to drought and MLN disease. The double cobber maize variety was developed particularly to solve the problem of MLN disease that has greatly reduced maize productivity in the country since its discovery in 2012. However, MLN can also tolerate drought.

Speaking during KALRO’s open week exhibition on March 31st, Dr. James Karanja, maize breeder at KALRO, pointed out that the MLN variety is suitable to MLN disease-prone of the dry to moist mid-altitudes areas.

Furthermore, he said that the MLN takes approximately two months to flower with a yield range between 25-30 bags per acre with a spacing of 90*30 centimetres(cm) in dry areas and 75*25 cm in moist areas. The current market price for the seeds is approximately Ksh. 650 per two kilograms.

KDH414-12, popularly known as UKAMEZ (derived from a Swahili word ukame which means drought), is another early maturing (100-150 day) maize variety that has been developed particularly to tolerate drought.

According to Dr. Karanja, UKAMEZ is best variety for maize farmers in dry areas because it has the highest tolerance to drought compared to other varieties, although it also does well in moist mid-attitudes. Unfortunately, UKAMEZ is not tolerant to both the MLN and FAW.

It takes between 58-60 days for UKAMEZ to flower and has a yield range between 25-30 bags per acre, with the current seed price of Ksh. 500 per 2kilograms. The recommended spacing for dry areas is 90*30 cm and 75*25 cm in moist areas.

Both MLN and UKAMEZ varieties are already in their second years in the market and are not recommended for high altitudes areas like the highlands.

The remaining three varieties, FAWTH2003, FAWTH2002, and FAWTH2001, are yet to reach farmers anytime soon, following their gazettement in February this year and subsequent release to seed companies for production in March.

All the FAW varieties are medium maturing (120-150 days) and tolerant to FAW pest. However, the yield range for FAWTH2003 and FAWTH2001 is 25-35 bags per acre, while the yield range for FAWTH2002 is 35-40 bags per acre.

Also, the three varieties are flowering at the same time (between 65-70 days) and are all suitable for lower to upper mid-land areas, which means they are not suitable for dry areas. Again, the recommended spacing between each plant for the three varieties is 75*25 cm.