Why farmers prefer H614 maize seed developed in 1986
Some of the maize seeds grown by Kenya Seed Company at farms near Eldoret. /FILE
Kenyan farmers still prefer planting the 614 maize seed variety that was developed 31 years ago despite the availability of 250 hybrid varieties.
Azariah Soi, Kenya Seed Company managing director, said the variety is still a preferred choice for many farmers for its good taste for ugali and roasting.
Soi said although the variety has been improved to suit different climatic conditions in Kenya and is resilient, the maize seed is very prone to counterfeits.
“Unscrupulous traders take advantage of the high demand of the 614 maize seed and develop fake seeds to make money,” he said.
He advised farmers to be very keen to make sure they buy quality, certified seeds during the long rains planting season that will begin mid February.
“The maize seed packaging comes with a code which a farmer can use to verify quality from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis). There are instructions on how one can confirm this via mobile phone,” Soi explained.
He spoke on Friday during the release of research findings on smallholder productivity in Kenya by Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development.
Mary Mathenge, Tegemeo Institute director, said agricultural productivity continues to decrease as seed companies continue to produce more hybrid seeds.
She added that productivity of maize stands at 1.6 metric tonnes per hectare against a potential of six metric tonnes.
“A major impediment to low agricultural productivity is lack of and low use of productivity-enhancing inputs, mainly chemicals, fertilizers, improved seed and pesticides,” said Mathenge.
“This is due to unavailability of liquid capital to finance such expenditure, the risk averse nature of small scale farmers and low returns to input use.”
Timothy Njagi, a fellow researcher with Tegemeo, said the performance of hybrid maize seed varieties is not well monitored.
“Farmers have been adopting the new seed varieties but they don’t use fertiliser and other inputs adequately to achieve a balanced output,” said Njagi.
By: AGATHA NGOTHO