Kenya chooses bio-control to fight aflatoxin

Thursday December 22 2016

Farmers at Chepkanga in Uasin Gishu County in Kenya’s Rift Valley dry their maize using a mobile drier. PHOTO | FILE

Farmers at Chepkanga in Uasin Gishu County in Kenya’s Rift Valley dry their maize using a mobile drier. PHOTO | FILE 

By KENNEDY SENELWA

Kenya will this month start manufacturing bio-control product Aflasafe KE01 to tackle aflatoxin.

The country has previously lost food stocks and lives to aflatoxin — tasteless poisons produced by Aspergillus flavus fungus, a mold in the soil that commonly infects maize, groundnuts and other crops both in the field and in storage.

Aflatoxin affects livestock and their products when the animals feed on infected grains or grass and manufactured animal feeds, endangering human beings while causing a decrease in milk and egg yields with high doses causing serious illness.

While acute exposure to aflatoxins can kill, prolonged exposure leads to impeded growth, liver disease, immune suppression and cancer, with women, children and the poor being most vulnerable.

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) director-general Eliud Kireger said Aflasafe KE01, which is to produced by Kalro and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), will be availed to farmers in the 2017 planting season.

IITA and Kalro will produce Aflasafe KE01 jointly at the Machakos plant for five years, with IITA providing technical support and training to Kalro staff. After the five years, Kalro will have the option to take over the plant.

When applied in the field before crop flowering, the aflatoxin-deficient strains in Aflasafe KE01 displace the toxin producing ones thereby reducing contamination.

“The bio-control technology introduces strains of the non-toxic fungus into the fields where they outcompete and reduce the population of the toxic ones, drastically reducing contamination,” said IITA.

In maize, aflatoxins occur on the farm through fungus containing high toxins in the soil. This is aggravated by poor harvesting practices and storage.
High risk counties include Machakos, Kitui, Makueni, Embu, Murang'a, Kwale, Kilifi and Tana River and Lamu.