Technology

Kenya now goes hi-tech in breeding food crops

DIGITALFARMING
geraldandae

Summary

  • Kenya has turned to digital platform in breeding of crops after years of relying on traditional equipment, coming as a boost to local researchers who can now conduct and trace the research process digitally.
  • The platform will make it easier for local research organisations to undertake digital breeding of food crops such as maize, wheat, rice and sorghum enabling them to store the records and digitally process for use by the future generations.

Kenya has turned to digital platform in breeding of crops after years of relying on traditional equipment, coming as a boost to local researchers who can now conduct and trace the research process digitally.

The platform will make it easier for local research organisations to undertake digital breeding of food crops such as maize, wheat, rice and sorghum enabling them to store the records and digitally process for use by the future generations.

The move follows the acquisition of specialised equipment by the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research organisation (Kalro) from Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) under the Excellence in Breeding (EiB) programme.

Kalro Director-General Eliud Kireger said through the EiB programme, the equipment will be distributed to the research organisation centres to complement the ongoing initiative to digitise historical data.

“We have been using old traditional equipment and now we will be able to fast track the whole process and make it more efficient, cheap and more accurate,” said Kireger.

The modern equipment will go a long way in ensuring that breeders are able to undertake their work faster more accurately and ensure food security and higher productivity of crop as well as benefit farmers.”

Dr Kireger emphasized on the importance of the use of a new technology to enhance breeding of food crops varieties.

Kalro is currently undertaking research in over 400 crops that can develop higher yields and that are disease and pest resistant.

Even though the research organisation has recorded impressive strides in crop breeding, Dr Kireger noted that research had been hindered by lack of digitisation equipment and mostly rely on strenuous systems that include manual layouts and collection, followed by physical data entry into computers.

The old age process, he said, was prone to data entry errors and delays in analysis, publication and reporting considering.

The new equipment, which are worth Sh9.2 million, will assist in the digitisation of the six crops, significantly reducing research costs with regard to labour, hence giving scientists more time to focus on core research activities including publications.

“As of now, 20 years of maize historical data have been uploaded onto the breeding management system (BMS) website, and will be accessible to future breeding teams for generations to come” he said.

CGIAR -EiB Coordinator Biswanath Das said that developing crop varieties that will respond to challenges of climate change, increased drought, temperatures and pests requires the use of modern technology.

“The importance of modernisation of the breeding programmes is essential,” said Mr Biswanath.

“Technology is changing quickly in the world of plant breeding as compared to a few years ago as we see tremendous development in genomics, molecular technology, and this therefore needs adoption in this breeding programme,” he added.