Farmers to adopt cultivation technology of Chinese foxtail millet

Farmers at the JKUAT Foxtail millet demonstration farm

Kenyan farmers have been urged to consider embracing the efficient cultivation technology of the Chinese hybrid foxtail millet in order to ease food and nutrition security situation in the country.

The Chinese foxtail millet is one of the collaborative research work being implemented by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) researchers led by Prof. David Mburu from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and their Chinese counterparts spearheaded by Prof. Xiaoxin Li and Suyin Chen from the Centre for Agricultural Resources Research (CARR), Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology (IGDB), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Speaking to farmers from Kiambu and other parts of the country during the training course and field demonstration on efficient cultivation technology of Chinese hybrid foxtail millet at the JKUAT-based Sino Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) on Thursday, August 3, 2023, Prof. Mburu lauded the collaborative initiative with CAS through the Centre for Agricultural Resources Research on “ research and training of postgraduate students at MSc and PhD level.”

From left: Dr. Kigomo, Dr. Obiero, Prof. Li and Prof. Mburu, respond to questions from farmers at the Foxtail millet farm at JKUAT.

Referring to the Chinese foxtail millet, Prof. Mburu stated that, there is a lot to borrow from China, a country that has  a huge population but there is a lot of food for its population,” and further urged farmers to consider the cultivation of foxtail millet to address food security.

His counterpart, Prof. Xiaoxin Li said, the training was an opportunity “to share knowledge with Kenyan farmers about the efficient cultivation and management technology of Chinese hybrid foxtail millet that is very popular in China.”

Prof. Li told the farmers that, millet, with a history of over 8700 years, is widely planted in Northern China, outlining the crop’s advantages including drought resistance, water-saving capacity (compared to crops like maize and rice),  high nutrient use efficiency, and disease resistance.

She also stated that the Chinese foxtail millet grows well in sandy loam soils or clay loam further noting the crop “grows fastest at the temperature range of 24-25 degree centigrade.”

Prof. Li characterized the foxtail millet as “a short day plant that requires shorter sunshine which promotes growth and early heading, while prolonged periods of sunshine leads to delayed development and delayed heading.”

She enumerated the value-added food products that can be derived from foxtail millet such as Japanese sushi, instant porridge, snacks, millet wine and other products including silage production for animal feed.

One of the training participants makes a contribution

During the one-day training moderated by Dr. Clifford Obiero, farmers had an opportunity to visit the demonstration farm to witness the foxtail millet crop under cultivation at JKUAT.

Chairman, Department of Land Resources Planning and Management, Dr. Mathew Kigomo said, farmers were critical in helping the country to produce enough food to address the cost of food, adding that the department was at the forefront to teach students and the Kenyan citizens the best uses of land.

Dr. Kigomo appreciated the farmers for showing interest to learn and share ideas aimed at taking “the country forward in terms of food security” and encouraged the farmers to seek answers to challenges they face on their farms.

Director, SAJOREC, Prof. Robert Gituru reported that significant research work has been done at the modern agricultural demonstration area, citing the recent work on maize crop cultivation that produced 50 per cent more yield, adding that  the good news will contribute to improving maize crop husbandry in the country.

“Foxtail millet is one of the steps that we hope will do well and we want to pass this knowledge to the end users – the farmer,” Prof. Gituru observed.

Farmers were given a manual on the Chinese foxtail millet detailing the farming process from land preparation to harvesting. Farmers volunteered to try the cultivation of the crop and were  given seeds to plant back in their farms. The researchers will make follow-up to assess crop performance in the field. The farmers were also encouraged to keep in touch with the researchers to share feedback.

Farmers and researchers in a commemorative photo after the training

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