Politics and policy

Varsity researcher develops disease resistant maize seed

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Maize crop ruined by an infection suspected to be Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease in Narok County. A Maseno University researcher has developed a seed variety resistant to the disease which destroyed maize in many firms last year.

Maize crop ruined by an infection suspected to be Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease in Narok County. A Maseno University researcher has developed a seed variety resistant to the disease which destroyed maize in many firms last year.  

By RAMENYA GIBENDI

Posted  Tuesday, February 26   2013 at  16:05

In Summary

  • The seed variety has so far received a clean Bill of health from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate service- Kephis and is awaiting commercialisation.
  • Although it can adjust to most altitudes, Prof Dida says it is best adapted to Lake Victoria region and most parts of western Kenya. The grain yield ranges from 8-11 tonnes per hectare.

A Maseno University researcher has developed a seed variety resistant to a disease that destroyed maize in many firms last year.

Prof Mathews Dida has established that Maseno EH10 seed variety withstands the fatal Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease MLND, a disease that destroyed maize in most farms last year.

The seed variety has so far received a clean Bill of health from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate service- Kephis and is awaiting commercialisation.

“The variety was tested and approved for registration by KEPHIS and we hope farmers will soon be freed from MLND,” said Prof Dida.

The findings are a culmination of 10 years of intensive laboratory and field work in which Maseno EH 10 displayed resistance to MLND while the research was targeting early maturity and high yielding varieties.

“When we planted with other varieties on our farm, we were surprised to realise Maseno EH 10 had been spared as other varieties succumbed to MLND,” said the genetic and plant breeding specialist.

Although it can adjust to most altitudes, Prof Dida says it is best adapted to Lake Victoria region and most parts of western Kenya. The grain yield ranges from 8-11 tonnes per hectare.

Prof. Diada said MLND disease is caused by a combination of the sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) and Maize chlorotic mottle virus (MCMV) which are transmitted by aphids and thrips.

“Maize Lethal Necrosis spreads very fast and can wipe out tens of thousands of acres of maize in one month; A plantation under attack from MLND has no remedy,” says prof Dida.

Currently, Maseno EH 10 is in its second and final year of DUS (Distinctive, Uniformity and Stability) testing ahead of commercialisation early next year. On average a seed is tested and commercialised in five years.

“If registered early next year, as it is likely the case, we shall embark on its commercialisation,” says Prof Dida. Before then he advises farmers to practice crop rotation to break the cycle of MLND-causing insects.