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Reseachers raise alarm over spread of maize disease

30 January 2015, 08:08

Nairobi - Kenya's agricultural researchers on Thursday raised alarm over the spread of the Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease across the country.

The country will have to wait for three more years before a seed variety resistant to MLN is introduced, according to Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

KALRO's acting Director General Eliud Kireger said thousands of maize breeds had been tested, and 80 percent of the samples had failed the test.

He said their hope lies in the remaining breeds that are currently undergoing screening.

"We are current doing screening in our center in Naivasha and we hope that we shall get a resistant hybrid in two or three years, " Kireger said.

Kireger said the disease, which was first detected in Rift Valley province in 2011, had spread fast to nearly the whole country, adding that the condition was serious last year.

"It's hard to calculate how much the country has lost due to the disease, but we know that it affected around 10 percent of maize production," he said.

Also read: Farmers lose hope after maize infection

Kireger said the disease had also affected livestock farmers who relied on maize products to feed the animals.

"The farmers cannot feed their livestock on the maize stalks, and this has led to a rise in the cost of animal feed and the price of maize flour," he said.

Prasanna Boddupalli, Director of the Global Maize Program, said that when the disease was first reported, only two counties were affected but now this has risen to 15 across the world.

He was optimistic that, through the ongoing research work, in the next three years, Kenya would find 10 to 15 breeds resistant to MLN.

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- Xinhua


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