Start of Bt cotton growing heralds better times, but State must go whole hog

Workers at Kalro's Kisumu Station prepare fields for planting Bt cotton during the National Performance Trials in 2018. Bt cotton is genetically engineered for pest resistance, especially against the African bollworm, a caterpillar pest. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Under the technology, strains of the bacterium Bacillus thungiensis (hence Bt) produce toxins that kill the bollworm, the most devastating of the cotton pests, which long developed resistance against insecticides such as synthetic pyrethroids.
  • In a past conversation with Dr Charles Waturu, the director of the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro), Thika, and a veteran of biotechnology trials, the three sprays will be for the control cotton strainers and aphids — the other important cotton pests that are not killed by Bt.
  • Cotton is seen as a low-hanging fruit for Kenya because it grows in semi-arid conditions, which are to be found in many regions of Kenya, from western to the Coast.
  • Kenya punches below its weight because it treats the sector that feeds the country and makes its money casually. It is moves such as embracing a variety with great potential to generate thousands of jobs that remind one of this possibility.

An event that has the potential to change the fortunes of Kenya’s agriculture passed rather quietly this week.

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