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.
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.
Photo: Christopher Bendana
Unprecedented droughts have hit Uganda’s farmers hard in recent years, affecting household income and food security by drastically cutting maize yields, a staple crop in the country. In 2016, at least 1.3 million people in Uganda faced hunger and urgently needed food aid after a dry spell decimated harvests, leaving some with less than one meal per day. When MLN, a maize disease with the ability to cause extreme or complete crop loss in maize, arrived in Uganda in 2013, farmers needed a variety that could cope.
The maize lethal necrosis (MLN) artificial inoculation screening site in Naivasha, Kenya will begin its phenotyping (screening/ indexing) cycle of 2018 at the begining of January, 2018 and in other four intervals, 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.