To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

September 19, 2010

New maize disease threatens East Africa

by Esther Nakkazi

A new maize disease, not previously reported in Africa, will threaten food security and the livelihoods of millions of people on the continent, scientists have said.
Rough dwarf maize disease was identified early this year in Masindi district and Namulonge in western and central Uganda, according to Godfrey Asea, head plant breeder for the cereals research programme at Uganda's National CropsResources Research Institute (NACRRI).

The disease has not yet been fully analysed to understand the pathogen. The strain, the rate of spread and even the scope of infection in Uganda or East Africa are still unknown, Asea said.

It is thought that the leaf hopper, a tiny insect that feeds on plants, transmits the infection through its eggs. Infected maize crops have wrinkled leaves, no cobs at all and generally stunted growth.

"The devastating nature of the dwarf maize disease is total loss of the crop yields once it attacks," said Asea.

The disease can infect 20-30 per cent of an entire maize field according to observations by specialised maize plant breeders.

"The only line of defense we have so far is to sensitise farmers on how to control spread of the disease. We shall advise them to keep uprooting and burning the infected crop," Asea said.

John Kityo a maize farmer in Namulonge, said farmers do not know what caused the disease, "but I know it is a major threat to maize production and the experts say they do not know much about it".

Maize production contributes 20–30 per cent of the GDP of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and provides 70 per cent of rural employment.

Stephen Mugo, senior scientist and maize breeder at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, said researchers need to study how the leaf hopper produces the disease in maize, as well as its biology, and start thinking of developing a host plant that is resistant. "This will be the easiest option for scientists and farmers."

But he also said there were no funds for the research and scientists trying to work on the diseases had to look for resources on their own. Governments only react when there is a crisis, he claimed.

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings expo exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture hydroponics ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maiz maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by

Back to TOP