Tomato farmers in Kenya have a reason to smile following the launch of a new tomato variety that is resistant to bacterial wilt.
The Seminis Tomato Ansal, a hybrid variety launched by Bayer East Africa, a subsidiary of Bayer Global, is tolerant to bacterial wilt. The new variety also has extra firm fruits that last three weeks after harvest and is a high yielder with 5-8 fruits per cluster.
The Ansal F1 hybrid tomato is also resistant to tomato mosaic virus, verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes.
The variety was introduced to farmers in late 2018 after a one-year period of on-station trials and off-station demonstrations plots with select farmers in Kirinyaga, Loitokitok and Nyanza.
Bacterial wilt is a soil and water borne disease caused by bacteria Ralstonia solanacearum which normally destroys 100 per cent of tomatoes. This disease can survive for up to 40 years in water, which explains its high incidence in regions, where river and lake water is heavily relied on for irrigation by tomato farmers.
“Following extensive trials with farmers, we can confirm that the new variety is the answer to bacterial wilt in tomatoes. It is a great seed variety that will save the farmer huge costs in pesticides in fighting the disease,” said Ms Elizabeth Mranda, Bayer East Africa Commercial Lead – Vegetables.
Speaking during the launch event in Kirinyaga County, Ms Mranda said Bayer was happy to launch in the County, which is the largest producer of commercial tomatoes in Kenya. She said research had revealed that tomato farmers lose between 50 to 100 percent of their crop due to bacterial wilt. She said the new variety targeting both small and large scale tomato farmers is now available in the market, and farmers can get it from all agrovets countrywide.
Elijah Gitari, who has been growing the new variety for the last one year, said that the crop he was now growing was resistant to bacterial wilt, and was high yielding giving him over 30 tons per acre.
“With the old tomato varieties, I used to spend up to Sh 100, 000 per acre on pesticides and fungicides every season to at least suppress disease spread. I also used to have not more than 8 harvests per crop cycle. This reduced my profits considerably. With the new variety, the savings are now going directly into my profits,” Gitari said.
He said that his yield had also increased, harvesting twice a week, 15-20 times per crop cycle, compared to between 4-8 times per cycle when he farmed with the other susceptible varieties.
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