RAB researchers train Burundians in maize disease control

The Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) is training a group of Burundian researchers how to combat the spread of maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease in Burundi.
An infected maize cob. (Net)
An infected maize cob. (Net)

The Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) is training a group of Burundian researchers how to combat the spread of maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease in Burundi.

Addressing the researchers at a training workshop in Kigali, yesterday, Claver Ngaboyisonga, a maize and cereals researcher at RAB, highlighted several measures used to check the disease spread in Rwanda.

These include alternating crops in the garden after maize harvest, weed and vectors control, using disease resistant seeds, among others.

The MLN maize disease was first heard of in January –February 2013 in Musanze District before it spread to other areas such as Rubavu.

In June 2014, it was discovered in 16 districts, with much of the brunt felt in Musanze, Nyabihu, Rubavu and Burera districts.

But it is currently under control, according to Ngaboyisonga.

The disease is caused by the combination of two viruses MCMV (maize chloritic mottle virus) and SCMV (sugarcane mosaic virus) and it has relationship with ‘Kirabiranya y’ibitoki’ in Rwanda.

Its symptoms on maize include yellow leaves, few seeds and rotting after cropping.

“It is better to plant other non-cereal seeds after the maize harvest and plant again maize after two terms. We also tell farmers to take out maize from infected field to non-infected sites,” Ngaboyisonga said.

“The first strategy we used was to create awareness of the disease- we held many dialogues with farmers and conducted different campaigns, including on radios.”

The disease was first reported in East African countries in 2011 starting in Kenya, Tanzania in 2012, Uganda 2013, South- Sudan, DR Congo and Ethiopia in 2014.

Alphonse Mweru, a Burundian researcher from the institution in charge of good seed assessment, said they needed to learn how Rwanda is fighting the disease.

“Such disease can spread to Burundi so we came to get knowledge of what is being done here in Rwanda to fight this disease,” Mweru said.

He named Burundian districts of Kibitoke and Ngozi as the areas where they suspect the disease to have attacked maize gardens though it’s yet to be confirmed.

“We have learnt many things, including causes and symptoms as well as the control measures. This will be helpful in case this disease spreads to Burundi. Our next step back home is to carry out laboratory test to confirm if what has been reported is MLN disease,” he said.

The delegation is set to visit farmers’ fields in Rwanda before winding up their four-day study tour.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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