By: Carolyn Cowan and Jennifer Johnson
A fall armyworm found on maize plants in Khamman district, Telangana state, India. Photo: ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research
The fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, a devastating insect-pest, has been identified for the first time on the Indian subcontinent. Native to the Americas, the pest is known to eat over 80 plant species, with a particular preference for maize, a main staple crop around the world. The fall armyworm was first officially reported in Nigeria in West Africa in 2016, and rapidly spread across 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Sightings of damage to maize crops in India due to fall armyworm mark the first report of the pest in Asia.
Maize crop infected with maize lethal necrosis disease in Kenya. Photo: Florence Sipalla/CIMMYT
A new study from scientists with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) in Kenya has revealed key information about the genetic basis of maize lethal necrosis (MLN), a disease that has been wreaking havoc on maize crops in eastern Africa since its discovery in the region in 2011.
Maize is the main staple food crop in sub-Saharan Africa and is cultivated on more than 35 million hectares of rain-fed agricultural land, providing sustenance to millions. The MLN disease, caused by a combination of the maize chlorotic mottle virus (MCMV) and sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV), causes irreversible damage that kills maize plants before they can grow and produce grain. Yield losses from infected fields in Kenya range from 30-100 percent, depending on the stage of disease infection and the prevailing environmental conditions. Such losses dramatically increase the risk of food insecurity in the region and weaken the ability of smallholder farmers to feed their families.
Nominations are open for the 2018 Maize-Asia Youth Innovators Awards. These awards are part of the efforts that the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) is undertaking to promote youth participation in maize-based agri-food systems. These awards recognize the contributions of young women and men below 35 years of age who are implementing innovations in Asian maize-based agri-food systems, including research-for-development, seed systems, agribusiness, and sustainable intensification.
The third installment of the 2018 maize lethal necrosis (MLN) phenotyping (screening/ indexing) cycle will be held in July 2018 at the MLN artificial inoculation screening site in Naivasha, Kenya. Interested organizations from both the private and public sectors are invited to send maize germplasm for screening.