Maize tolerant to MLN to be released soon
Maize farmers can now breathe easy following revelations that two maize hybrids, H12Ml and H13Ml tolerant to maize lethal necrosis (MLN) has been discovered and will soon be available for planting.
The disease, commonly known as MLN is a virus that has devastated maize farming and production across the country.
These two maize hybrids will be commercialised by Kenya Seed Company and will be released to farmers early next year.
A Maize breeder at International Maize and Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Dr. Stephen Mugo said the first batch of the seeds will be availed to farmers in mild altitude areas of 1600-1700m above sea level such as Naivasha, Nakuru and Central Kenya except Mt. Kenya area.
Dr. Mugo was speaking in Naivasha during a media tour at the MLN screening facility on Tuesday.
The second phase, Dr. Mugo added, will cover the whole country and will be a big relief considering the disease causes 30 to 100 percent yield loss in areas where commercial varieties are found.
According to the Director of Global Maize programme, Dr. Boddupalli Prassanna, so far five maize varieties tolerant to MLN have been developed in East Africa out of which two are for Kenya, two for Uganda and one for Tanzania.
“We have about 20 MLN hybrid resistant varieties in the pipeline and we hope to have them released to farmers by 2020,” he said.
He further said that they were establishing an MLN Disease Surveillance and Monitoring System in Sub‐Saharan Africa that provides latest updates on disease status in different countries.
Dr. Prassanna added that the monitoring system will be linked with appropriate knowledge hubs of the ministries and regional organisations.
A resident of Mirera area in Naivasha, Purity Wanjiku Wang’ombe, during an interview with KNA said she has given up on maize production in her farm because of the devastating effects of MLN.
She said she had been planting maize for the last twenty years and faced challenges from the disease between 2011 when it was first reported and 2013. In 2013, she said, it was so bad she stopped planting the crop.
“That was my last straw. Right now I have planted grass on my land. I have put maize one a very small area which I intend to experiment with lest I plant more and suffer the losses from the disease,” she said.
Wanjiku said that if the government addresses the issue of the MLN, then she will go back to planting maize especially the new varieties that are being produced.
Maize lethal necrosis was first reported in Kenya in 2011 and CIMMYT and its partners, including Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), have been intensively engaged in research for breeds that are resistant to the disease.
By Wangari Ndirangu