Farmers stand to gain from cheaper seed in the wake of a new technology developed by Kenya Agriculture Research and Livestock Organisation (Kalro), which is set to cut the cost by 40 percent.

The Seed Production Technology for Africa (SPTA) eliminates the need for detasseling, hence reducing the cost used in carrying out this exercise.

Dr Eliud Kireger at the Kalro demo farm in Kitale. (Photo:BDA).
Dr Eliud Kireger at the Kalro demo farm in Kitale. (Photo:BDA).

Kalro chief executive officer Eliud Kireger said seed producers will cut the cost of production by Sh40,000, which they normally incur in detasseling.

“One of the challenges farmers face is accessing affordable quality cost of production, the cost of breeding is very expensive,” said Dr Kireger.

Detasseling is the process of removing the tassels from the top of the maize plant in order to deter self-pollination that may lead to inbreeding.

“Detasseling is very labour intensive, it is very expensive and that makes the seed at the end of it to be costly,” said the CEO during a visit at the Kalro demonstration farm in Kitale.

He said most of the small seed companies cannot afford to meet the cost of detasseling and that impacts on availability.

Dr Kireger said the new technology will lead to high-quality seed as it eliminates human errors, resulting in pure variety.

“In the process of detasseling, sometimes there are human errors, which leads to self-pollination. Self-pollination now leads to the loss of hybrid vigour. So the quality of the seed and the purity of the seed is reduced,” Dr Kireger said.

The SPTA team that coordinated the project. (Photo:BDA)
The SPTA team that coordinated the project. (Photo:BDA)

He said SPTA technology, which has been developed with our partners, is to ensure that, the cost of production of hybrid seed is reduced so that farmers can afford it and small seed companies can also manage the production cost.

“When everybody’s producing quality seed, because of competition, the price will go down. So farmers will be able to afford it, secondly, because of the purity of the seed, farmers are able to plant hybrid seed, which is pure,” the official said.

The new maize technology is also early maturing.  It also does well in conditions or environments with low nitrogen, hence cutting down on the use of nitrogen fertilisers.

Kalro will provide basic seed to seed companies for multiplication and onward sell to farmers in the next two years.