Read full article by Roselyne Kavoo @ Kenya News Agency PC: KNA
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has developed new parental hybrid lines for sorghum and pearl millet expected to increase yields by over 70 percent among smallholder farmers.
ICRISAT Regional Director for East and South Africa Dr. Eric Manyasa said despite Kenya’s high potential for sorghum and pearl millet production, lack of a viable hybrid seed production system and crop management remains a handicap.
Dr. Manyasa said more than 200 parental lines (A/ B pairs) for sorghum had been developed at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) at Kiboko station in Makindu to address the gap, while a further 100 pairs are on the pipeline.
Similarly, 500 lines for pearl millet have been established while an additional 1,500 lines are under progress.
Parental lines consist of two genetically different seeds-male and female that produce a hybrid-which is more fruitful and resilient.
The A line is the female parent while the male parent is called the R line.
The A line is male sterile is sown alternatively on the same plot with the B line to help maintain the A line male sterility.
The R line is grown is an isolation field away from other sorghum fields.
During hybrid seed production, the R line is cross pollinated with the A line to produce a hybrid seed.
Dr. Manyasa said the hybrid parents developed by ICRISAT will be used by seed manufacturers in Kenya and the East Africa region to produce a greater volume of hybrid seeds and sell them to farmers at affordable costs to boost production.
He said the varieties developed are drought resistant, early maturing and have a good grain quality for multiple purposes.
“The demand for sorghum in growing especially for food and brewing purposes and it is crucial to have hybrid varieties just like maize to boost production,” said the director.
Dr. Manyasa also noted that with the current climate changes, there is a need for farmers to plant resilient crops like sorghum, millet and other traditional value crops that do well with minimal rainfall.
He said such crops will help Kenya achieve its big four agenda on food and nutrition security.