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Agronomist notebook: Watch out for fake seeds as planting season starts

Friday April 17 2020
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Paul Karanja on his potato farm in Elburgon. As a farmer, only purchase seeds certified by Kephis, which are usually packed in containers or packets that are clearly labelled and contain the seed lot numbers that allow for easy traceability. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ANN MACHARIA

There is a growing cry from farmers that after purchasing seeds and planting them, they have failed to germinate despite the rains, pointing to poor quality.

Stanley, a farmer in Nyeri County, called me the other day recounting how he bought a variety of onion seeds that did very well in the first season.

However, having purchased the same variety a few weeks ago for the second season, the seeds did not germinate though he had followed all the management practices.

Similarly, Veronica, a farmer in Nakuru County, shared a related experience as none of her maize seeds have germinated. She wondered if she had purchased fake seeds.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) is tasked with certifying all seeds and assuring the public that they are good for planting.

Through Kephis, the government ascertains to farmers the quality of seeds in the market as guided by the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act (Cap) 326.

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As a farmer, therefore, only purchase seeds certified by Kephis, which are usually packed in containers or packets that are clearly labelled and contain the seed lot numbers that allow for easy traceability.

The weight of the seeds, name of crop species and the variety, packing date and seed source or the distributors are also indicated. One should check for the Kephis logo, serial number and concealed code.

You can check if the seeds are genuine upon purchasing by scratching the label to reveal the code that you send to 1393 in a short message free of charge.

You will then receive feedback from the service confirming if the seed is genuine. If genuine, you will receive the seed lot number, date of testing, crop, and variety.

PURCHASE SEEDS FROM LICENSED SELLERS

If not, you will get such a message, “No 2538851005559 is not a valid code. Check and send correct code. The seed may not be genuine.”

Once you get negative feedback, return the seeds to the vendor or report to the Kephis office, police station or the Ministry of Agriculture.

This means you should purchase seeds from licensed sellers and ensure you obtain an official receipt.

Always buy seeds that are packed in the manufacturer’s official package and don’t buy if the containers or sachets are tampered with.

Keep both the receipt and empty seed packets during the entire growing period for reference in case of any complaint.

If there are any abnormalities in the crop during the production time, it’s important to report to Kephis or the seed dealers.

After buying the seeds, avoid exposing them to extreme weather conditions, such as heat, moisture and direct contact with fertiliser as this compromises their quality.

Also ensure that you purchase seeds that are adequate for the space you want to plant in a season as opening the container or package and leaving it open makes the seeds lose viability.

Prepare the nursery bed to a fine tilth. If using soilless media such as coco peat, ensure it is well-treated to avoid seed scorching.

Sow the seeds at the right depth as deep planting results in failed germination. Adequately water the seeds as irregular watering results in abortion and excess watering makes them rot and they fail to germinate.

Also, protect the seeds from pests and diseases and harsh environmental conditions such as rain as this can result in seed erosion.

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