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New seed storage facility in Kenya to bolster Africa’s maize research

July 6, 2016

NAIROBI, Kenya (CIMMYT) – A new maize seed storage cold room is to be inaugurated by the directors general of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) at KALRO-Kiboko research station in Makueni County, Kenya, on Thursday, July 7, 2016.

KALRO Director General Eliud Kireger and CIMMYT Director General Martin Kropff, who is visiting from Mexico where CIMMYT is headquartered, will be at the opening of the state-of-the-art facility, designed by Denmark-based Engineers without Borders (EWB) with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The cold room will support ongoing maize research work at the KALRO-Kiboko station by storing high value seeds with such superior traits as resilience to an array of diseases, insect-pests and climatic stresses such as drought, heat, and low soil fertility that are crippling maize production and affecting the livelihoods of maize farmers in Africa.

“The backbone of Kenya’s economy is agriculture, and this dictates that we have a strong seed system that will enable our breeders to develop and disseminate improved seed for the farmers to plant and improve their livelihoods. This new facility will boost the maize breeding work done by both KALRO and CIMMYT at the Kiboko station, which serves as a major hub for maize breeding in Africa,” Kireger said.

The facility will enable CIMMYT, which has a long-standing successful partnership with KALRO, to expedite the movement of improved maize germplasm to national partners and seed companies across Africa and beyond, and to reach farmers much faster with improved maize varieties.

“Crop improvement involves working with seed, which serves as a bridge to different generations of crop plants,” Kropff said. “It is therefore important to have a facility that will help breeding programs to produce and store large quantities of valuable seed with no loss in quality. This cold room will help improve effectiveness and efficiency of our breeding work in Kenya and Africa.”

Cold rooms are like large-scale refrigerators that are used to preserve seed by maintaining low temperatures,  impeding environmental or biotic factors (e.g., pathogens and insects) from affecting seed viability for long periods. For research work, seed needs to be stored between six months to 10 years for future use; this requires high level of preservation and safety to enable breeders to work with more diverse materials, develop new maize germplasm, and store it effectively for further use.

Currently, Kiboko research station has more than 30 hectares of maize-breeding nurseries from which seed of elite maize germplasm is harvested every crop season. With the increase in breeding programs that use different generations of seed, which include inbred lines and hybrids, the cold room at Kiboko station is an important asset for maintaining seed quality and for improving the efficiency of seed exchange between various maize breeding programs in Africa and beyond.

“We are proud of the performance of this cold room that maintains the required temperature to help the seeds maintain their viability up to 10 years, a great boost in the maize research work in Africa,” said Jorgen Nielsen, project manager at EWB.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Florida Maritim: Florida.Maritim@kalro.org (KALRO)

Brenda Wawa: B.wawa@cgiar.org (CIMMYT – Kenya)



Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) is a corporate body created under the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act of 2013 to establish suitable legal and institutional framework for coordination of agricultural research in Kenya with the following goals: Promote, streamline, co-ordinate and regulate research in crops, livestock, genetic resources and biotechnology in Kenya, and expedite equitable access to research information, resources and technology and promote the application of research findings and technology in the field of agriculture.


The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is the global leader on publicly funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. Headquartered near Mexico City, Mexico, CIMMYT works with hundreds of partners throughout the developing world to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat cropping systems, thus improving global food security and reducing poverty. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR Consortium and leads the CGIAR Research Programs on MAIZE and WHEAT. The Center receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.



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