Farmers face losses as disease, armyworm attack maize crops


A maize plantation. NMG PHOTO

Kenya is staring at losses of yields following the re-emergence of Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) and Fall Armyworm (FAW) that have previously affected maize production which will add more pressure to limited stocks in the country.

A new study released by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Kenya Agriculture Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) notes that MLN and FAW remain a threat and called for speedy action to contain them as they pose a serious threat to food security.

The scientists say the re-emergence of the two has been caused by relaxation in the screening of these pests and diseases. In 2013, the disease affected more than 26,000 hectares of maize valued at Sh2 billion.

Hugo De Groote, the lead investigator in the study, says the research conducted in December last year in two counties of Kakamega and Embu showed that the prevalence of MLN and FAW is still high with the two regions recording 29 percent and 48 percent prevalence.

“The country is not yet out of the woods when it comes to the FAW as currently there is no variety that can withstand these pests,” said Dr Groote.

On MLN, the researcher said there are varieties of maize that can tolerate the disease. However, they are not suitable for all growing zones in the country. 

Zachary Gitonga, a scientist with CIMMYT said embracing technology is one of the ways farmers can use to fight these threats. 

“We have technologies that have been developed but moving it to the county and having them being adopted by farmers is a serious challenge,” said Dr Gitonga.

Bomet county executive committee member Rosa Bett said the county, which was hit hard by the FAW when it first emerged in 2011, is still staring at more losses from the menace and that drastic measures need to be taken to contain the threat. 

Ms Bett said there is a need for the country to adjust farming practices by embracing technology.

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