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.
The 2016 CIMMYT Annual Report details the strong partnerships and science through which MAIZE lead center CIMMYT creates and shares innovations for farmers to grow more, earn more and reduce environmental impacts, now and in the future. Highlights include:
- Maize and wheat breeding speeds up to equip farmers with varieties for dryer, hotter climates, and to resist evolving pathogens and pests.
- Scientists refute trendy claims disparaging wheat and promote the nutritional benefits of this vital food grain.
- Growing partnerships, including the joint launch with Henan Agricultural University, China, of a new maize and wheat research center.
- Dramatically expanded maize seed markets for Mexican farmers.
- Use of zero tillage and other sustainable agriculture practices in southern Africa and South Asia.
In 2016, CIMMYT marked and celebrated 50 years of applying excellence in maize and wheat science to improve the livelihoods of the disadvantaged. With the commitment and continuous support of dedicated staff, partners and donors, the Center will continue contributing to a food- and nutrition-secure future for all.
Click here TO VIEW OR DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE REPORT.
The recent appearance of the fall armyworm, an insect-pest that causes damage to more than 80 crop species in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, poses a serious challenge and significant risk to the region’s food security.
In a recent interview, Dr B.M. Prasanna, director of the Global Maize Program, CIMMYT and the CGIAR Research Program on MAIZE, who is working at the forefront of CGIAR’s response, highlights the potential impact of the pest and how CGIAR researchers are contributing to a quick and coordinated response across the region.