The sugar industry in Kenya and the region is set to benefit from a revolutionary biotechnological innovation and breakthrough spearheaded by a team of researchers at the Institute of Biotechnology Research (IBR) at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
IBR has developed sugarcane planting materials through in vitro culture that is true to type, free from pests and diseases and higher yielding compared to the conventional materials that are currently being used by the industry.
Under the guidance of Prof. Bernard Aggrey Nyende, Dr. Justus Onguso (both of JKUAT), Prof. Leonard S. Wamocho of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Mr. Richard Wekesa, a PhD research student at IBR has been able to raise the material from young leaf spindles using various growth hormones through a regeneration process known as callogenesis.
Unlike the conventional method which takes 6-7 years to produce sufficient quantities of improved planting materials, Mr. Wekesa explains, “the new method has the capacity to rapidly multiply sufficient quantities in the shortest time possible.”
This latest research finding is likely to be sweet news to all the stakeholders in the sugar industry including farmers and the millers.
According to the researcher, unlike in other countries such as India and Brazil, in Kenya, we don’t have sugarcane planting materials certification process similar to one that is undertaken by Kenya Plant Health Inspection Services, in regard to maize seeds.
Therefore, there is no guaranteed quality of the materials sold to farmers as sugarcane seed.