, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 30 – Agriculture Minister Sally Kosgei has assured that the country will not face maize shortage despite a disease that has affected the crop in parts of Rift Valley.
Kosgei said on Wednesday that the disease which began in Bomet in September last year had been identified as Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease whose symptoms are streak and withering.
She however said that the disease which affects all varieties of maize was not seed-borne so there should be no fear of it spreading through seeds.
“There is absolutely no cause for alarm. We are as food secure as we were last year. That is not to say that we will not have difficulties because the floods are still there. The droughts are always there but at least let’s give thanks that the rains were not too late this year. So everything being equal we should still have the amount of crop that we normally have,” she said at a press conference.
She said the ministry would set up plant health clinics where farmers could seek assistance in disease diagnosis.
“For long term solutions I have instructed KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) to immediately start breeding for resistant varieties,” Kosgei said.
According to the minister, the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease has also been reported in Chepalungu, Narok North and Naivasha districts.
“Unconfirmed reports have been recorded in districts neighbouring Bomet (Rift Valley province) and as far as Mathira East (Central) and Imenti South (Eastern) districts,” she stated.
The ministry has advised farmers to plant only one crop of maize per season; use only certified seeds and avoid use of farm-saved or recycled seeds especially for hybrid seeds to keep away the disease.
Farmers should also practice crop rotation with alternative crops, avoid movement of any maize plant materials from infested regions to other areas and destroy diseased plant materials and keep the fields free from weeds which could act as alternate hosts for potential vectors of this disease.