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New project on maize lethal necrosis (MLN) to curb the spread of the disease

November 10, 2015

MLN-projectNairobi, Kenya, November 10, 2015 – A new project has been launched to curb the spread of a disease lethal to the vital maize crop in sub-Saharan Africa. It will work primarily in the eastern Africa nations of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda where the disease is presently prevalent.

Maize is the main staple food for several million families in East Africa. The maize lethal necrosis (MLN), which appeared in the region in 2011, has caused major losses to the maize crops, decreasing food security and the ability of the smallholder farmers to provide for their families. The disease causes an estimated 30–100 percent crop loss in farmers’ fields depending on the severity of the incidence, and is also threatening to affect regional trade.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the four-year project will coordinate regional efforts to strengthen response to the rapid emergence and spread of MLN.

“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.” says B.M. Prasanna, Director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program as well as the CGIAR Research Program MAIZE. “Our goal is to strengthen the national plant protection systems to effectively detect, monitor and contain the spread of MLN particularly through seed, while coordinating with the commercial maize seed sector to produce and commercialize MLN-free clean seed to the farmers,” he added.

The new 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 and 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. It will also step-up MLN surveillance and monitoring in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, three of the major commercial maize seed exporting countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The MLN project will be coordinated by CIMMYT, and implemented in close partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), NPPOs and commercial seed companies in eastern Africa. It will also pool expertise from relevant public- and private-sector partners, regional organizations, and seed trade organizations operating in the region.

This project is a concrete follow-up step from the May 2015 MLN Diagnostics and Management in Africa confrence, which formulated strategies and recommendations to prevent the spread of MLN through seed. The conference was jointly organized by CIMMYT and AGRA in collaboration with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

For more information, please contact

B. M. Prasanna, Director Global Maize Program, CIMMYT

Media enquiries:

Brenda Wawa, Communications Officer, CIMMYT–Kenya

Distribution and impact of maize lethal necrosis in Kenya | Meeting of minds to combat MLN