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North Rift risks huge losses as maize disease strikes again

Farmers in the North Rift risk losses after an outbreak of maize lethal necrosis disease was reported in farms in Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and West Pokot counties.

The viral disease has affected the crop on the farms with agricultural officials warning of poor yields since most farmers ignored guidelines they had issued to prevent the disease.

Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers chairman in Trans Nzoia William Kimosong said the disease threatens livelihoods of growers who depend on the crop.

“This infection is bad news to farmers who rely on maize to meet their daily needs,” he said. “We see this as a laxity on part of the government to clearly educate farmers on preventive measures.”

Mr Kimosong called on the government to educate farmers on how to protect their crops from the disease.

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“As much as there are measures to curb the spread of this disease, we feel that it (the government) has not reached out to a majority of the farmers to sensitise them on how to curb its spread,” he said.

Ministry of Agriculture official Joshua Oluyali said the disease recurs because farmers in the same area plant the crop at different times.

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

The official said that maize planted late after planting season in the same region are more prone to the infection since the crop will be infected at a tender age when they less resistant.

“We are advising farmers not to wholly rely on the subsidised fertiliser because those who planted late when other farms are reaching transplanting stage would be adversely affected,” he said.

Mr Oluyali said farmers in the region have no alternative but to diversify through crop rotation which is a better way of suppressing the virus.

The maize lethal necrosis disease is caused by a combination of two viruses — the sugarcane mosaic virus and maize chlorotic mottle virus which are transmitted by aphids and thrips respectively.

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