Biotech Updates

Saving Kenya's Maize Crop

March 23, 2012

Farmers in Kenya are waiting for a new high-yielding maize variety resistant to herbicides to be released by the end of March 2012. The crop, developed to survive against Striga weed infestation, has been developed by a team of research scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Weizmann Institute, and BASF-Chemical Company.

The new variety, called "UaKayongo" (Swahili for "kill the Striga weed") is resistant to the herbicide Imazapyr, the most effective herbicide used by farmers to kill the Striga weed. A three-way cross hybrid, UaKayongo has demonstrated to yield up to five tons per hectare, a welcome relief to farmers who have nearly quit planting maize due to huge losses in the past.

For years, maize farmers in Kenya lose around 70-100% of their harvest due to Striga weed, a parasite that infests maize, sorghum, millet, and sugarcane fields. In Kenya's Western Province, where maize is the main cash and food crop, Striga affects 250,000 hectares of maize. The new maize variety will be distributed by the Kenya Seed Company when it is released.

For more details about this new development in Africa, visit