Healthy feed for dairy cattle
Napier grass, also known as elephant grass, is the most important type of ‘cut and carry’ grass used to feed dairy cattle in sub Saharan Africa. But in the central highlands of Kenya, an area where dairying is vital for farming incomes, Napier grass is being attacked by a harmful disease – head smut – which makes the leaves thin and tough, greatly reducing its feed value. In recent years, plant breeders from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) have developed a variety of Napier known as Kakamega 1, which is not affected by head smut. Around ten thousand farmers are now planting Kakamega 1, ensuring they have good supplies of feed for their cattle. Winnie Onyimbo visits the International Livestock Research Institute genebank in Ethiopia, which provided smut-tolerant Napier samples to the KARI breeders.
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