Scientists develop drought resistant grass variety for E. Africa

NAIROBI — A research organization that focuses on tropical agriculture said on Wednesday that a drought resistant grass variety it developed could boost milk and meat production in livestock reared across East Africa by 40 percent.

According to a study launched by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Nairobi, Kenya, brachiaria grass could offer respite to East African livestock farmers, who are grappling with loss of fodder occasioned by climatic stresses.

“Our research shows that brachiaria grasses could be the cornerstone of productive and resilient livestock systems that quickly provide more milk, meat and money for small-scale farmers,” said Steven Prager, a scientist at the CIAT and a co-author of the study.

He said that brachiaria grass had become “the most extensively used” forage in the world, with seed production already commercialized in major livestock farming hubs like Brazil.

Prager said brachiaria grass was native to Africa, but its performance and nutritional qualities had been improved through decades of work by CIAT’s plant breeders in Colombia.

According to an assessment by CIAT researchers, brachiaria grass could deliver benefits that include higher milk and meat production to an estimated two million small scale livestock farmers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

Prager said a friendly policy and regulatory environment alongside funding would be key to scaling up cultivation of brachiaria grass across East Africa. PNA/