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January 17, 2019

Efforts to curb the spread of maize disease

A new project has been launched to curb the spread of the maize lethal necrosis disease.

The project will focus on the eastern Africa nations of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda where the disease is presently prevalent.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the four-year project will coordinate regional efforts to strengthen response to the rapid emergence and spread of MLN.

“While progress has been made in developing and releasing MLN-tolerant maize varieties, we need to intensify inter-institutional actions on MLN disease surveillance and monitoring in eastern Africa, and ensure that the disease does not spread further from the MLN-endemic to the non-endemic countries,” said B.M. Prasanna, director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Programme.

The disease, which appeared in the region in 2011, has caused major losses to the maize crops, decreasing food security and the ability of the smallholder farmers to provide for their families. The disease causes an estimated 30–100 per cent crop loss in farmers’ fields depending on the severity of the incidence, and is also threatening to affect regional trade.

“Our goal is to strengthen the national plant protection systems to effectively detect, monitor and contain the spread of MLN particularly through seed, while coordinating with the commercial maize seed sector to produce and commercialise MLN-free clean seed to the farmers,” he added. The new project will establish a community of practice among the national plant protection organisations (NPPOs) in eastern Africa.

This, he said, will help in detecting MLN-causing viruses and enable commercial seed companies to implement necessary standard operational procedures to produce MLN-free clean seed at various points along the maize seed value chain.

It will also step-up MLN surveillance and monitoring in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, three of the major commercial maize seed exporting countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The MLN project will be coordinated by CIMMYTand will also pool expertise from relevant public- and private-sector partners, regional organizations, and seed trade organisations operating in the region.

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