The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) researchers said the new project will target Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda where the disease is presently prevalent.
“While progress has been made in developing and releasing MLN-tolerant maize varieties, we need to intensify inter-institutional actions on MLN disease surveillance and monitoring in Eastern Africa, and ensure that the disease does not spread further from the MLN-endemic to the non-endemic countries,” Boddupalli Prasanna, CIMMYT Director of Global Maize Program, said during the launch of the project in Nairobi on Tuesday.
“Our goal is to strengthen the national plant protection systems to effectively detect, monitor and contain the spread of MLN,” said Prasanna, noting that the spread of the disease must be done through seed, while coordinating with the commercial maize seed sector to produce and commercialize MLN-free clean seed to the farmers.
Maize is the main staple food for families in East Africa, but the disease which appeared in the region in 2011, devastate maize crops, decreasing food security. The disease causes 30 to 100 percent crop loss, and likely to affect regional trade.
In Kenya, most maize-growing areas have been affected, with yield losses of up to 10 percent of the national maize production in 2014, which is equivalent to 50 million U.S. dollars.
The situation is critical as almost all maize varieties on the seed market in Kenya and Eastern Africa region have been found to be extremely susceptible to MLN.
The four-year project will coordinate regional efforts to strengthen response to the rapid emergence and spread of MLN.
The project will establish a community of practice among the National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs) in Eastern Africa for implementing harmonized MLN diagnostic protocols for detecting MLN-causing viruses.
It will also enable commercial seed companies to implement necessary standard operational procedures to produce MLN-free clean seed at various points along the maize seed value chain.
Moreover, the project will step up MLN surveillance and monitoring in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, three of the major commercial maize seed exporting countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Enditem