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Maize value chain/Kenya - Possibility of lethal maize disease spread by soil

07 June 2015

According to seed experts from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) said there is a possibility that the Maize Lethal Necrosis virus (MLN), which destroyed hundreds of hectares of maize in 2014, could be spread through the soil. This was mentioned during the Maize Disease Forum organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa on May 12th 2015. Dr Stephen Mugo, a maize breeder and CIMMYT’s Africa regional representative, said this could further complicate the fight against the deadly disease which destroys 300,000 metric tonnes of maize yield in Kenya yearly. He further said, farmers must embrace crop rotation and use certified seed varieties: hybrid maize seed varieties that are tolerant to MLN have been released from the ongoing examination at the screening facility at Karlo-Naivasha. CIMMYT maize programme director Dr B Prasanna underscored that MLN is a regional problem, having been reported in Kenya as well as in neighboring countries: DR Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda where maize is also a staple food. The forum in Nairobi was attended by maize value chain stakeholder: maize breeders, scientists, policy makers, seed companies and regulators, evaluated the current knowledge and best practice in managing maize lethal necrosis. It was revealed that MLN is caused by a mixed infection of two viruses namely: Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus (MDMV) and Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus(MCMV), which are known to be seed transmitted. From the forum discussion it was further unveiled that countries like the USA that has been able to fight the disease, made it through combination of using tolerant varieties, crop rotation, strict surveillance where the affected crops were destroyed and having maize free periods. MDMV and MCMV are cereal viruses in the Potyviridae group, typically produce milder symptoms when they infect maize; in combination, these two viruses rapidly produce a synergistic reaction that seriously damages or kills infected plants.



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