A highly valued dryland tree is under serious environmental threat. Crop diseases - fusarium wilt and colletotrichum leaf blight - are threatening propagation and the growth of Melia Volkensii, a rare indigenous tree species that is under research by various Government agencies dealing with forests.

Melia Volkensii is a multi-purpose tree, which grows and yields products within six years. It is a hard wood plant and its timber is termite resistant and durable. 

Researchers say the survival of melia volkensii in upper and lower Eastern Kenya will depend on how agricultural scientists and forestry researchers respond to the situation.

The plant’s leaves and twigs are used as fodder for livestock and leaf extract is used as insecticide, especially against ticks and fleas.

According to a forestry researcher Dr Daniel Nyamai, fusarium wilt was first detected in 2007 and 2010 in the young trees of Melia Volkensii in Embu, Mbeere, Kitui and Kitui and the disease was managed and eliminated. But it appears to have resurfaced reveals Dr Nyamai.

“The disease has caused havoc to the pre and post germination of young Melia seedlings in the germination chambers,” says a Melia Volkensii farmer in Kibwezi Jonathan Mutuku.

Research shows the disease affects 25 per cent of Melia Volkensii production. Dr Nyamai says fusarium wilt is a broad range soil inhabiting fungi that feeds on Melia Volkensii trees.

It can survive a diverse temperature and highly pathogenic and causes havoc on a wide range of plants. But it can be controlled by using fungicide spray.

Removing and burning of the affected trees also controls the spread of the disease. In addition, State agncies that deal in tree crops and forests should adopt a farmers’ friendly approach to preserve and protect the endangered tree.

The tree is used to make furniture and electric poles.

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