The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation(KALRO) has launched eight new maize varieties that are resistant to Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) which has been wiping out maize plantations especially in the South and North Rift, the bread baskets of the country.
According to James Karanja, KALRO plant breeder, the hybrids have been tested and will fix the problem in counties still facing the crisis such as Bomet.
In Africa, the disease was first reported in Kenya, (South Rift Valley, Bomet and Naivasha districts) in September 2011-FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Working Group. According to the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, two percent of the maize harvest in the region was affected in 2012.
“At household level for smallholder farmers the impact is significant as they can lose their whole production when affected,” said Karanja.
Seed companies have started certification and licensing. Farmers will, therefore, wait for about two years before they are rolled out.
Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND)
MLND is a result of a combination of two viruses, the Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMoV) and any of the cereal viruses in the Potyviridae group, like the Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SCMV), Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus (WSMV) or Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus (MDMV). The double infection of the two viruses gives rise to what is known as MLND, also referred to as Corn Lethal Necrosis (CLN).
Maize makes up a large part of the diet in East Africa region with the consumption per person varying with the highest rate of 103kg per person in Kenya meaning the effect of the disease can lead to food insecurity and malnutrition among many.
KALRO researchers have also come up with 20 hybrids that are drought-tolerant and can double production.
“The hybrids can produce up to eight tonnes per acre, compared to the old varieties’ three tonnes,” said Karanja during a field day for seed firms in KALRO farm, Naivasha.