Farmers in the Northern Province have been warned against planting a certain maize variety that is prone to diseases, and advised to uproot those that have shown symptoms of any disease.
The Minister for Agriculture, Dr Agnes Kalibata, issued the warning on Wednesday in Rulindo after her meeting with district officials in charge of economic affairs, district and sector agronomists and heads of cooperatives in the province.
She assured farmers supply of good seed varieties to replace those that have been attacked.
The maize brand in question is called Hybrid Pannar 691 which officials said will be replaced with Poll9A and ZM and Poll8.
The most affected districts are Gakenke where hybrid was planted in at least six sectors and Burera where the seed covers five sectors.
Other affected districts are Musanze and Rulindo while the only district that is not affected is Gicumbi.
Kalibata said the disease is no longer a threat as it was detected at the beginning of planting season and farmers will be either facilitated to replace them with others or plant other crops such as beans instead.
The disease is seed borne not a soil borne, uprooting them and plant new ones and avert potential losses, she added
“After distributing it we discovered through research that this type of maize is prone to disease. We are keen on following up where they have been planted, we have experts who will take samples for lab testing, farmers are advised to replace them whenever the disease manifests,” she said.
She said new seeds to replace the affected ones will be available and farmers would start replacing them by Friday (yesterday).
The affected variety, she said, is the same the government had imported since 2007 but the disease was clear this year.
The symptoms of the disease are detected in the initial stages after planting, officials said.
Early this week, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a directive through the media asking farmers to stop planting hybrid seeds and uproot what had been planted.
The warning raised concerns amongst the farmers complaining it was too late for the ministry to issue the warning because a lot had already been invested in planting this variety.
“We wish we had been warned before we started planting, we have used more energy and resources...we used our manure, we have no hope we will benefit from new seeds,” said one farmer in Rulindo, preferring anonymity.
But Kalibata said, “This year we wanted to have maize planted on a bigger area and ordered for more quantity, we got it when it was already planting season and we distributed before testing them, providers might have given us infected seeds.”
Aime Bosenibamwe, the governor of Northern Province, said though attacked hybrid was planted on a big area, there was still a hope that farmers will harvest a lot once they replaced it with available substitutes.
“We can’t say it is a major threat and that it will affect farmers, the farming season started early last week and once farmers do their best to replace infected seeds with new ones, agronomists and local leaders and heads of cooperatives are encouraged to help farmers understand this for it is in their best interest,” said Bosenibamwe.
Officials said there would be direct collaboration with agriculture experts who will be doing sampling of suspected hybrid and examining it in laboratory and that results will be out within four days.