KENYA – Egerton University has partnered with Nanjing Agricultural University in China to develop a technology that can help eradicate bacterial wilt in tomatoes.

Forged in the 1990s, the cooperation between the two universities has revolved around research on hybrid crops as well as training of farmers and extension workers on improved agronomic practices, said Richard Mulwa, deputy vice-chancellor of Egerton University.

This current technology involves the use of lanthanum-based nanomaterials that can suppress bacterial wilt in tomato plants.

Mulwa singled out the China-Kenya Belt and Road Joint Laboratory on Crop Molecular Biology, domiciled at Egerton University, for acting as a hub for the research and development of high-yielding crops through leveraging Chinese technologies and expertise.

The modern laboratory, whose plaque was unveiled in September, is expected to facilitate groundbreaking research, breeding, and release of crops that can withstand climatic stresses, he continued.

According to him, the laboratory will also serve as a “nerve center” for knowledge and technology transfer, besides training experts from the eastern African region on breeding climate-resilient food crops.

“The state-of-the-art molecular laboratory will be utilized to change the lives of our farmers,” he said.

Further explaining that the laboratory will help local scientists select and breed crop varieties that can withstand hostile weather, pests, and diseases.

Hannah Wanjiku, a Kenyan retired teacher, is one of the beneficiaries of the research partnership that has fostered the development of pest-, drought-, and disease-tolerant crops to combat hunger, malnutrition, and rural poverty.

During an interview with the local news outlet, Ann revealed that she once gave up on her tomato greenhouse installed on her 5-acre (2-hectare) farm in Matangi Tisa village in Kenya’s Nakuru County, because of bacterial wilt, a disease caused by soilborne bacteria.

However, with the help of the joint lab of the two universities her dilapidated green house was refurbished and later used as a field classroom to educate students, farmers, and county agricultural officers on how to graft tomato shoots onto disease-resistant rootstocks.

This has enabled farmers to improve their yields, reduce crop damage and decrease the need for imported pesticides.

Now, her village is one of 10 poverty alleviation and agricultural demonstration projects across Africa.

“We look forward to accessing new farming technologies from China to help boost crop yield and address challenges facing local farmers like erratic rains, high cost of manure and seeds,” Wanjiku told Xinhua during a field visit to her farm.

For all the latest fresh produce industry news updates from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.