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Maize rough dwarf virus yet to be an epidemic

Scientists are gathering data on on MRDV (Morgan Mbabazi)
Scientists are gathering data on on MRDV
Morgan Mbabazi

With the severity and spread of maize rough dwarf virus (MRDV) still confined to a relatively small area in Uganda, scientists have indicated that the disease has yet to reach epidemic levels or to severely impact maize production in East Africa. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) opinion is that maize streak virus and northern leaf blight remain more important to the scientific community and farmers due to their widespread coverage in East Africa. But in affected areas of Uganda, MRDV has reduced yields by 20-30 per cent.

Dr. Stephen Mugo, senior scientist and maize breeder at CIMMYT-Kenya, explains that resistant maize plants are the best option for farmers, but in the short term delayed sowing and efforts to kill the virus-carrying plant hoppers about 20-30 days before maize is planted will offer adequate control of the disease. Affected farmers are already uprooting and burning infected crops in an effort to contain the spread of the disease. "We need to understand the disease to control it," Mugo says. But like all plant diseases, Mugo asserts that technical and financial constraints will delay development of chemical pesticides and pest-resistant seeds.

The virus causes galls to develop on the underside of leaves along the veins, leading to severe stunting and dwarfing, malformed leaves, restriction of root development and a reduction in the yield of fodder and grain. MRDV was first identified early this year in Masindi district and Namulonge in Uganda.

Written by: Zablon Odhiambo

Date published: October 2010


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