Technology to curb aflatoxin launched - Daily Nation

Technology to curb aflatoxin launched

Saturday October 8 2016

Government health officials destroy aflatoxin-infested maize in a past incident.

Government health officials destroy aflatoxin-infested maize in a past incident. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LEOPOLD OBI
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By BRIAN OKINDA
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Aflatoxin will soon be a lesser problem to cereals’ farmers following the launch of two technologies for easy testing and control.

The first technology, a test kit advanced by Egerton University, only uses a small testing strip to detect aflatoxin in the products involved.

Sensors and an application running on a smartphone that is connected to the kit help in deducing the level of aflatoxin infestation, transmitting the data in real time to the university’s servers.

Experts then collect the data and analyse it, in turn giving an insight into the state of the fungal infestation in the country.

The test kits are distributed to regional cereal collecting points where farmers trade their produce, with the data collected giving a discernment of aflatoxin levels within the region.

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), on the other hand, has come up with an innovative technology dubbed Aflasafe KE01, which according to the researchers, curbs aflatoxin contamination by up to 80 per cent.

Kalro director, Dr Eliud Kireger, noted that aflatoxins have always been a major challenge to the country’s cereals production value chain, sentiments echoed by Egerton University’s Luke Toroitich, who said that the infestation testing has always been difficult for farmers.

However, they both pointed out that the new innovations are very important advancements for local farmers in mitigating the menace.

FOOD SHORTAGE

The aflatoxin kit saves the farmers up to Sh1,300 in testing expenses, with the savings set to go even higher with continued development.

“Climate change and the accompanying adverse weather conditions, from drought to excessive rains, are not only threats to food security but also create favourable conditions for the aflatoxin producing moulds, causing contamination,” Dr Kireger said, adding that the adoption of their biocontrol technology, with other management practices, will reduce aflatoxin contamination by over 70 per cent in maize and groundnut.

High levels of aflatoxin in maize have forced regulators to confiscate grain and prevent its entrance into the market resulting to food shortage.

The biocontrol technology is made up of strains of the non-toxic fungus, which when introduced into the fields, outcompete and reduce the population of the toxic ones, therefore reducing contamination.

The technology was first developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Services (USDA–ARS).

Kalro and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) partnered with USDA–ARS and other organisations to adapt it for local use using locally sourced strains of the atoxigenic fungus.

Aflatoxin, a toxin caused by fungi Aspergillus flavus and Parasiticus Fungus, is produced as a by-product of the metabolism of the fungi that thrives in farm produce stored when not well dried, because of the high moisture content.