Why not plant these seeds for a bumper harvest?

Friday April 29 2016

Samuel Kamau, the seeds sales manager at Elgon

Samuel Kamau, the seeds sales manager at Elgon Kenya Ltd during the interview. PHOTO | LEOPOLD OBI  

Your latest kid on the block on matters seeds is Elgon Prestige 02. What are some of its defining features?

This seed is a product of the partnership between the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO) and WEMA–Water Efficient Maize for Africa, a project. Its biggest selling point is that it is a drought and other stress-tolerant variety. It does well in conditions of reduced rainfall. It is high-yielding because it is a double cropper.

That means every stem has two cobs. We have seen farmers harvest up to between 35 and 40 bags an acre. This is way higher than 10-15 bags which other seeds give from an acre. Having been developed to brave climate change, this variety takes 90 days for green maize to be ready for the market. Those targeting dry maize will have harvest it in four months.

So do you have varieties for the various regions?

No, this is a one-fit-all variety for all medium to low altitude regions. Anywhere from coffee zones to the sea level should be alright for Elgon Prestige O2. It is good for Bungoma, Kisii, Bomet, Narok, Kirinyaga, Meru and other areas of low to mid altitudes.

What are the other stress conditions outside of drought that this seed is resistant to?

This seed is resistant to most of the severe diseases and pests affecting maize. They include the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) and the stem borer. It is also strong in the stay green property, which makes it very good as a fodder crop. The stem remains green and succulent even after the cob has ripened. It’s also strong on the grain durability aspect, which makes it less susceptible to post-harvest loss. It is sweet, making it good for roasting as well as making ugali. The crop also has a good husk cover which arms it to resist birds attack and rain. Rain and birds usually wreak havoc on the maize plant, causing huge losses to farmers even when the crop has done well.

Where can farmers get the seeds?

They are virtually available in all major agro-dealers countrywide.

What else do you sell?

We are an agro-input supplier and I am the seeds manager. That means I co-ordinate all the seeds business in the country. We are involved in distribution of cabbage, onion, carrot, water melon, sweet and sweet pepper seeds, among others. The one that takes the pride of place, at the moment, though, is Elgon Prestige 02, the drought-tolerant maize variety I spoke about.

What prepares you for this job?

My training is in agriculture. I have a Bsc in Horticulture from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology. That means I understand the science and business of crops. Experience also horns skills.

I have been in this field for many years. As I go out marketing, I don’t just do sales. As a crop expert, I offer professional advice too. I mix salesmanship with extension to give value to our customers.

From your work with farmers all these years, what would you say is the biggest challenge facing farmers?

The biggest problem is lack of technical knowhow. There are so many appropriate technologies, but farmers lack the knowledge and skills to apply them. With increased interest in farming as a business, though, a lot is now happening on the information front, and the efforts have begun bearing fruit. What you guys are doing in Seeds of Gold, for instance, is invaluable contribution to the development of agriculture in Kenya. The Ministry of Agriculture and the counties are now helping out too through their extension departments. We, agro-input suppliers, do our bit too.