Maize seeds resistant to Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease to be in the market by 2018

Biswanath Das, a CIMMYT Maize breeder at the KALRO Naivasha Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) farm, shows other researchers the variety of maize that had shown resistance to MLND viruses at the farm in Naivasha. PHOTO: JACOB NG'ETICH

NAIROBI: Farmers will get hybrid seeds that are resistant to Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) by 2018, researchers have said.

Some 15 varieties of seeds contain the resistance traits and are undergoing screening under the National Plants Trial (NPT) by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) before they are released into the market.

The research, which is being conducted at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) farm in Naivasha, is on the third generation's production of the seed.

MLND, a viral disease, was first reported in a village in Bomet in June 2011 before it spread to Kericho, Nandi, Nyamira, parts of Uasin Gishu, Meru and Nyeri. Farmers lost between 40 and 100 per cent of their crops.

Suresh L.M. of Sub Saharan Africa CIMMYT and MLND Management Global Maize Programme said the research is in its fourth and final process of coming up with the hybrid maize seeds. The new variety will withstand the pressures caused by the co-infection of maize by maize chlorotic mottle and sugarcane mosaic viruses.

"We started research on the project in 2012, a year after the outbreak of the maize disease and we are happy that we almost have a breakthrough. We have managed to come up with 15 varieties of maize seeds that we have released to KEPHIS for verifications," said Dr Suresh.

He said the MLND-resistant seeds came after collections of species from across the world that were experimented with on their farm in Naivasha.

"We really widened our research to ensure we got the best seed that would be resistant to the traits and save farmers the losses that they continue to incur in their farms because of the disease," said Suresh.

Immediately after the outbreak of the MLND, which saw hundreds of thousands of acres destroyed, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) organised a partnership with a number of organisations that saw the beginning of the research project.

AATF Chief Executive Officer Dennis Kyetere said they saw the need to have in place research on the viral disease that was threatening food security in the region.