• Farmers will no longer spend a lot of money on pesticides, thus increasing their profit margins
• Kirinyaga was ideal for the launch as it is the largest producer of commercial tomatoes in Kenya
Tomato farmers have a reason to smile following the launch of a new variety resistant to bacterial wilt.
The fruits of the Seminis Tomato Ansal are not only intolerant to bacterial wilt but firm, lasting up to three weeks after harvest. The hybrid variety produces five to eight fruits per cluster.
It was launched commercially by Bayer East Africa in Kagio, Kirinyaga, a year after it was introduced to farmers late last year. On- and off station trials were undertaken on demonstrations plots in Kirinyaga, Oloitoktok and Nyanza.
The variety is also resistant to tomato mosaic virus, verticillium wilt, and fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes.
Bacterial wilt is a soil and waterborne disease caused by bacteria. This disease can survive for up to 40 years in water. This explains its high incidence where river and lake waters are heavily relied on for irrigation by tomato farmers.
Bayer East Africa Commercial lead vegetable manager Elizabeth Mranda said during the launch at Kangaru village: “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.”
Kirinyaga County is the largest producer of commercial tomatoes in Kenya.
Mranda said tomato farmers lose between 50 to 100 per cent of their crop due to bacterial wilt.
The new variety is available in agrovets across the country.
Elijah Gitari Njaria, who has been growing the new variety since last one year, said his latest harvest was over 30 tons per acre.
“With the old tomato varieties, I used to spend up to Sh100,000 per acre on pesticides and fungicides every season. This reduced my profits considerably,” Gitari said.
His yield has increased. He harvests twice a week, 15-20 times per crop cycle, compared to 4-8 times per cycle in the past.
Gitari said Seminis Tomato Ansal is also resistant to TY virus (gathuri in Kikuyu).
“The oval fruit shape and good size uniformity from cluster to cluster have made the variety a choice to many consumers,” he said.
“I planted the current crop on my one-acre plot on May 29 and it has matured in three months,” Gitari said.
He expects to harvest 400 crates compared to 30-40 crates in the past.
The retired veterinary extension officer said: “I planted Ansal F1 side by side with the local variety. I got almost nothing (from the old variety) compared to the bumper harvest I expect from the new variety.”
He said the TY virus makes the tomato plant look like an old man, hence the nickname gathuri.
During the launch, farmers were exposed to good crop husbandry. They were also trained on the use of yellow and blue traps to catch white flies and thrips (black-winged insects that suck plant sap).
“The white flies are harmful to the tomato plants as they suck the sap from the plant, drying it up in the process,” Gitari said.
“I have five acres of the new variety Ansal F1 which I believe will give me good returns when I finally deliver them to the market,” he said.
Gitari said farmers wishing to engage in tomato farming should go for the new variety which will have solved half the problem encountered by tomato farmers of wilt.
Kirinyaga Agriculture executive committee member Jackline Njogu said the county government will support the farmers by disseminating the information on the new tomato variety.
Njogu said plans have been finalised to build a tomato processing factory in the county to minimise the losses which farmers have been incurring in the past. It will also stabilise market prices.
Plant pathologist Jess Kambaka, who is the deputy director at KARLO, Thika, said farmers will be trained on the integrated pest management.
Kambaka said the application of technology will reduce pesticide and chemical use.
She identified bacteria wilt as one of the biggest problems Kenya farmers face and welcomed the new tomato variety.