Politics and policy

Deadly maize disease resurfaces in N. Rift

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Maize crop ruined by an infection suspected to be Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease in Narok County. The destructive maize disease has been reported in farms across the North Rift, with agricultural officials warning of poor yields since most farmers failed to heed preventive guidelines

Maize crop ruined by an infection suspected to be Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease in Narok County. The destructive maize disease has been reported in farms across the North Rift, with agricultural officials warning of poor yields since most farmers failed to heed preventive guidelines. 

By PHILIP BWAYO, pbwayo@ke.nationmedia.com

Posted  Thursday, April 25  2013 at  13:37

The destructive maize disease has been reported in farms across the North Rift, with agricultural officials warning of poor yields since most farmers failed to heed preventive guidelines.

The viral Maize Lethal Necrosis has affected the crop in Uasin Gishu, West Pokot and Trans Nzoia counties with the crop exhibiting wilting signs.

In Trans Nzoia, the disease has mainly affected Nyakinywa area with almost every farm being affected by the disease, which has no remedy.

Area Chief Mr Francis Morogo said, "There is no maize farmer in the whole of Nyakinywa area in Kaplamai division who has been spared by the disease, which is a looming food insecurity situation”

A farmer in the area, Mr Njoroge Kihiu, has his plantation entirely wiped by the disease, with both leaves and stalks drying as if the crop has reached the harvesting stage yet it is barely three months old.

Another farmer at Aruba area, Mrs Jane Nyarang’o was shocked after her two-acre plantation that she planted in February remained stunted and later stated to fall off.

“I have uprooted many stalks but I am seeing no positive response as the symptoms are reappearing in the crop left. I have never experienced this infection and this is a catastrophe for me because I depend on the crop for feeding my family,” said Mrs Nyarang’o.

Senior assistant director in charge of Plant Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture Mr Joshua Oluyali attributed the resurfacing of the disease which hindered maize yields in the Rift Valley last year to planting of the crop at different times by farmers in the same region.

“We had advised farmers in one region to plant maize at the same time so that when the virus becomes active, the crops would have reached a developed stage hence more resistant,” said Mr Oluyali.

He said maize planted after others have planted in the same region are more prone to the infection since the crop will be infected at a tender age hence less resistant.

“When you plant your maize after others have planted your crop will be disadvantaged because the virus from the older crops will be transmitted to your crops that is at tender age which is less resistant,” said the official.

He said most of the farmers who delayed planting waiting for subsidised fertilizer are at risk of falling prey to the infection that has already shown signs.

“We are advising farmers not to wholly rely on the subsidised fertiliser because those who planted late will be adversely affected,” said Mr Oluyali.

He cautioned that some seed companies in the country were deceiving farmers that they have seeds that were resistant to the disease, saying they were duping farmers since no such breakthrough has been realised.