Commodities

Superior seeds cut maize losses from viral disease by 17 percent

maize

Workers harvest maize in Uasin Gishu. FILE PHOTO | NMG

geraldandae

Summary

  • Losses in maize seed production in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania occasioned by a viral disease have dropped by 17 percent following efforts by scientists to develop superior seed.
  • The losses caused by Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) have now dropped from the initial 33 percent.
  • MLN, which first struck Kenya in 2011, saw the country lose 23 percent of the total production worth Sh11 billion in the first year of infestation.

Losses in maize seed production in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania occasioned by a viral disease have dropped by 17 percent following efforts by scientists to develop superior seed.

The losses caused by Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) have now dropped from the initial 33 percent.

MLN, which first struck Kenya in 2011, saw the country lose 23 percent of the total production worth Sh11 billion in the first year of infestation.

“The efforts have saved 17 percent of seed initially lost to the disease that led to maize deficit in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda,” said Samuel Angwenyi, the MLN project coordinator at Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation.

Kenya is the largest seed producer in the region with the State- owned Kenya Seed Company having subsidiaries in other countries in the region.

Mr Angwenyi said a surge of new pests and diseases like Fall armyworm and MLN threaten to cause damages worth billions of dollars in food losses.

“Challenges brought about by pests and diseases such as Fall armyworm, Striga weed and MLN require integrated management strategies to provide lasting solutions,” he said.

He added that farmers using MLN-tolerant varieties are recording additional yield of over five tonnes per hectare in addition to increased grain production estimated at about Sh172,800 per hectare.

AATF is working with partners such as Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa to support the commercial seed sector in countries with regular cases of MLN disease to produce commercial seed that is free from maize chlorotic mottle virus that is a key cause of MLN disease.

MLN disease has been effectively controlled in some developed countries through strategies that combine tolerant varieties, crop rotation, and introduction of maize free seasons to reduce the insect vector pressure that transmits the disease.

However, in eastern Africa, the epidemic is aggravated by little access to MLN tolerant maize varieties by farmers and year-round cultivation of maize, allowing transmission via insect vectors, among others.