The maize lethal necrosis (MLN) artificial inoculation screening site in Naivasha, Kenya will begin its second screening cycle of 2017 at the end of October, interested organizations from both the private and public sectors are invited to send maize germplasm for screening.
In 2013, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) jointly established the MLN screening facility at the KALRO Naivasha research station in Kenya’s Rift Valley with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.
Farmer Joyce Mapeto shucks maize after harvesting her crop in in Pindukai village, Shamva district, Zimbabwe. Photo: Peter Lowe/CIMMYT
A new study from scientists with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) shows that drought tolerant (DT) maize varieties can provide farming families in Zimbabwe an extra 9 months of food at no additional cost. As climate change related weather events such as variable rainfall and drought continue to impact the southern African nation at an increasing rate, these varieties could provide a valuable safety net for farmers and consumers.
CIMMYT maize breeder Thokozile Ndhlela (left, and farmer Otilia Chirova of Mutoko district in Mashonaland East province, identifying the fall armyworm in Chirova’s field in February. Chirova eventually lost almost half of her entire maize crop. Photo: J. Siamachira/CIMMYT.
Smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe’s rural areas have grown maize for years both as a staple and as a resource to boost their economy.
However, Zimbabwean farmers rely predominately on rain-fed maize farming, making each planting season a gamble with nature as poor rainfall, pests and diseases constantly threaten this staple crop and farmer livelihoods.
As most smallholders tried to recover from the El Niño-induced drought in southern Africa, affecting 40 million people during the 2015-2016 farming season, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, nothing could have prepared them for the sudden invasion of the fall armyworm in September 2016 that caused irreversible damage on their maize crop.
Artificial inoculation of maize germplasm at the Naivasha MLN screening site, Kenya. Photo: B.Wawa/CIMMYT
The new maize lethal necrosis (MLN) online portal provides up-to-date information and surveillance tools to help researchers control and stop the spread of the deadly disease.
MLN was first reported in Kenya in 2011 and has since then been reported in several countries in eastern Africa, especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The disease kills plants before they can grow, and the pathogens are transmitted by insects or contaminated seed. Serious damage to the region’s maize production from MLN has impacted household food security.