Germplasm screening at the maize lethal necrosis (MLN) screening facility at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) Naivasha is underway, and CIMMYT pathologist George Mahuku said some inoculated lines are showing levels of resistance.
Photo of George Mahuku
CIMMYT pathologist George Mahuku and MLN technician Janet Kimunye examine tassels for pollen production on an infected plant.
Photos courtesy of George Mahuku
described the green islands among the maze of yellow in the fields as a demonstration of the success of the testing protocols being used at the site.
"This is the lifeline for farmers," he
"Next we will be incorporating genes from these lines into adapted germplasm and using the Doubled Haploid facility in Kiboko to quickly develop inbred lines with resistance to MLN."The deadly maize disease was first identified in Kenya in 2011 and has since been diagnosed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
The MLN screening facility was established in 2013 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture
to serve maize breeding institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa in response to 2014 the emergence of the disease.
Photo of George Mahuku.
CIMMYT pathologist George Mahuku inspecting plants that show tolerance to MLN in Naivasha, Kenya.
"To date, we have planted more than 19,000 different types of germplasm on 15 hectares," Mahuku
"This germplasm was submitted by both private and public sector partners, including CIMMYT
and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
All germplasm has been inoculated, Mahuku
said, and symptoms are fully visible.
Operations at the facility include maintaining pure strains of the viruses that cause MLN, producing inoculum for artificial inoculation, evaluating maize hybrids and inbred lines for response to MLN and building the capacity of stakeholders including scientists, technicians, farmers and extension workers to handle the disease.
The facility also provides employment opportunities for the community, hiring more than 30 people for activities such as weeding, irrigation and disease scoring.
Because the facility screens germplasm from different countries, it's isolated from farmers' maize plots and certified as a quarantine site.
"We still do not fully understand the variability in virus strains, whether the virus strains in Rwanda, Tanzania or Uganda are the same as the ones in Kenya," said Mahuku
After disease evaluations, all plant debris will be disposed of by incineration.
The facility has received many visitors from universities, international organizations and public and private institutions.
"There is a lot of interest in learning and knowing the disease," Mahuku
"We have assembled a really good team here; watching them work way into the night and weekend is heartening," said Mahuku