Research Institute (KARI) Director Ephraim Mukisira
told journalists here that the screening of inbred
lines has already shown positive signs.
has already generated three promising lines and so we
are optimistic that a Maize Lethal Necrosis resistant
maize variety will be released to farmers within the
next three years," Mukisira said during a regional
conference on fighting the MLN disease in Nairobi.
The three-day forum
brought over 100 scientists to chart way forward on
how to address the maize disease. MLN is a viral
disease caused by a combined infection of the Maize
Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMV) and Sugar Cane Mosaic
Virus (SCMV). The disease was first detected in Kenya
An estimated 26,000
hectares was affected in 2012 by the virus,
translating into a loss valued at 23 million U.S.
dollars or 1.7 percent loss of 38 million bags
Mukisira said that the
disease has since spread into neighboring Tanzania,
Uganda and Rwanda.
"In response to the
outbreak, a multidisciplinary team comprising KARI,
international research organizations, seed producers,
regulatory agencies was formed to find ways of
managing the disease," he said.
According to KARI,
maize is an important staple crop to the majority of
people in east and central Africa.
"In Kenya, the maize
per capita consumption stands at 98 kilograms, while
90 percent of the population depends on the crop
either directly or indirectly," he said.
Mukisira noted that the
lowest income quartile of the Kenyan population spends
28 percent of its income on maize.
He said that Kenya has
already developed six wheat varieties that are
tolerant to the Ug99 wheat rust disease in less than
International Maize and
Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Global Maize Program
Director Prasanna Boddupalli said that the demand for
maize seed has decreased in the MLN-affected regions
as a result of the disease.
"We are therefore
encouraging the use of seeds that have been treated
with systemic insecticides," he said. "However, this
could lead to an increase in cost of seeds."
According to CIMMYT,
the disease is also endemic in Peru, Argentina, the
United States, Mexico and Thailand.
He added that
investigations of commercial maize varieties released
in Kenya indicate that a majority of them are very
vulnerable to the virus.
Boddupalli said that in
order to curb the spread of the virus, all
international maize seeds shipment from an MLN-endemic
country can only be produced in an MLN-free location.
Strengthening Agriculture in Eastern and Central
Africa (ASARECA) Executive Director Fina Opio said
that continuous mono cropping of maize over a long
period makes the grain susceptible to the virus.
Opio said that a state
of the art maize breeding facility will be established
in Kenya next month.
operates in countries including Kenya, Uganda,
Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of
Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Madagascar.
"Each of these
countries have good research programs but need to work
collectively in order to address some cross cutting
issues as the MLN disease," she said.
She added that there is
still widespread cultivation of susceptible germplasm
that has never been screened for MCMV.
ASARECA Program Manager
for Staple Crops Dr Ivan Rwomushana said that the
integration of MLN resistance is a critical component
of maize breeding strategy. He called for the
harmonization of all maize plantings so as to ensure a
maize free period.
seriousness of the disease there is urgency for the
implementation of short, medium and long term research
interventions," he said.
Rwomushana said that
common symptoms include the maize combs that have poor
seed set as well as shortened internodes..