Maize farmer
Maize farmer

International maize research center said Thursday it has launched an information portal in the Eastern and Southern African region to help create awareness about the ravaging maize disease.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) said the portal — mln.cimmyt.org – will offer real-time information to farmers and other users on the management of Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) outbreak.

“MLN remains the worst threat to the regions food security in decades as it has forced most farmers to stop growing the cereals in favor of other crops,” said Francis Mwatuni, Project Manager, MLN Diagnostics and Management at CIMMYT.

Mwatuni said that the portal will help prevent the spread of the disease from East Africa to Southern Africa where it has also caused massive crop losses by motivating farmers to reconsider growing maize.

MLN first appeared in Eastern African region in 2011 when the first ravages in maize farms were reported in parts of Kenya causing up to 100 percent loss.

On learning of the problem, researchers at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) started working towards commercializing MLN tolerant maize varieties in collaboration with private seed companies.

“We have developed 11 second generation CIMMYT derived MLN resistant maize hybrid seeds are currently ongoing National Performance Trials in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda,” Mwatuni said.

He added that CIMMYT is developing a MLN phytosanitary practice in Africa, for sharing of learning, easier method of MLN diagnostic and surveillance protocols, and best management practices for MLN control in the continent.

Studies have shown that commercial seed flows have been the initial source of the spread of the MLN-causing viruses over large distances in East Africa.

Mwatuni told smallholder farmers who have realized massive cereal loss to stop recycling seeds more than twice but instead rotate crops in their farms.

“This is the only way that farmers could help in the fight against MLN disease that has a long way to be eradicated in the region,” he added.

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Source: Xinhua/Newsghana.com.gh