XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS
FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT
Uganda and Tanzania
fight stubborn maize disease
disease led to the loss of 30-100 percent
of maize in areas in central Kenya, coastal
and western Kenya regions that it attacked
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
A strange disease of maize that appeared in
farmers’ field in Eastern Africa in 2011 has
brought together research institutions to control
its spread and also develop and deploy resistant
maize varieties for farmers.
The Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) which first
appeared in Kenyan maize farms in September 2011 in
the Rift Valley have fast spread to far flung
regions of the country and into the neighboring
Tanzania and Uganda.
This has now forced scientists from Kenya
Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
and Tanzanian and Ugandan national institutes to
look for a lasting solution of the problem since it
is likely to interfere with the realization of the
MDGs one on poverty reduction.
“We are screening a large set of diverse
pre-commercial hybrids from CIMMYT and other
public and private institutions to identify and
validate MLN resistance,” KARI Director Dr.
Ephrahim Mukusira said
onWednesday during a regional workshop on
MLN and its management in Nairobi.
He said that the disease is a real threat
considering the fact that climate change is also
reducing Kenya’s 20 percent of arable land.
Mukisira revealed that the disease led to
the loss of 30-100 percent of maize in areas in
central Kenya, coastal and western Kenya regions
that it attacked.
Dr. B.M. Prasanna CIMMYT’s Director of
Global Maize Program said that the joint team
research is cost effective rather than each country
conducts its own research yet the problem affects
“This approach is also talking lead by
producing germplasm from Africa as opposed to
importing germplasm from the western world,” he
noted. He assured farmers not to panic as the
solution is just about to come out following
intensive research that is on going.
In Tanzania, the disease was discovered
late last year in Mwanza, Arusha and Manyara regions
where maize plants were noticed to be dying.
“We thought that the dying of maize
plants was caused by stem borer but after a close
investigation by our pathologists, we discovered
that it was MLN,” Kheri Kitenge, a maize breeder
at Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) of
He noted that with the help of pathologists
from CIMMYT, it was discovered that its symptoms
were the same as those found in Kenya in 2011.
Kitenge revealed that since the discovery,
they have been screening gerplasm which are
regionally available to help develop new varieties
using resistant parental materials to release
resistant varieties that is to be released to
“In October 2012, farmers and extension
officers in Busia reported a strange disease in
their fields and after a verification visit was
made typical symptoms of MLN were observed fields
in boarder districts of Busia and Tororo where it
severely affected crops,” said Godfery Asea,
National Agricultural Research Organization maize
He noted that farmers’ in Sikuda and
Buteba sub-counties in Busia and Sikuda sub-county
in Tororo County revealed that they first heard
about it from Busia in Kenya.
Asea said that the disease is now spreading
to the central part of the country where it has
already been detected in Iganga and Mbale
According to Dr. Anne Wangai KARI’s Chief
Research Scientist pockets of the disease has been
reported in Rift Valley and parts of Central
province early this year.
She however revealed that the maize growing
region of North Rift recorded low incidences of the
disease hence giving hope that there may be no maize
shortage in the country.
“We are currently screening a variety of
germ plasm where experiments are underway in a
farm in Naivasha and very soon we are introducing
resistant varieties,” he said.
Wangai said that the disease has affected
food security, reduced farm income and uncertainty
on period it will take for farmers to receive
effective, affordable and sustainable control
“It is advisable that communities adopt
other food varieties but this shift from their
dietary preference of maize is too difficult for
them to imagine,” she noted.
Wangai said that as the resistant varieties
are being awaited, there is need to introduce
closed maize seasons, quarantine movement, removal
and disposal of infected maize crop and also
practice crop rotation schedules.
“We are soon providing alternative high
value traditional crops such as cassava and sweet
potato to encourage diversification of cropping
away from maize,” said Mukisira.
Dr. Esther Kimani from Kenya Plant Health
Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) blamed the occurrence
of strange viruses to climate change and trade.
She called on scientists to take keen care
while importing germplasm since they pose danger of
coming along with strange viruses.
“These strange diseases are to blame for
food insecurity in the region and due vigilance
must be put in place,” she added.
She disclosed that KEPHIS does not have
specific regulation on MLND since there is very
little information on it and it has not been
categorized as high risk disease.
“There is no specific regulation on MLND
but actions are guided as developed by
International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC),
Cap 324 and 326 of the laws of Kenya for disease
management,” she added.
She however told scientists to ensure that
all actions be science based since currently major
scientific information about the disease is scanty.
The scientists calls on farmers in affected
areas in the region to diversify and start growing
some crops apart from maize, weed fields regularly
to eliminate alternate hosts for insect vectors and
use maize varieties that are resistant to MLN.
According to farmers, the problem started
with the planting of contaminated seeds from agro
vet shops. Others said that it came from government
relief seeds, Insects damage and frost damage.
The MLND disease is caused by a combination
of two viruses; the Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SCMV)
and Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMV).
The disease affects a wide range of maize
varieties and its symptoms occur on all stages of
crop from four leaf stage up to maturity. Some
symptoms found on the cobs too and planting a new
crop next to an older affected crop encouraged
disease spread and the combination of symptoms may
be seen on a plant.
It is causing mild to severe mottling on
the leaves, usually starting from the base of young
leaves and extending upwards. Its other symptoms
include stunting and premature aging of the plants
and dying of the leaf margin.
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