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Maize disease ravages 340 hectares in northern Tanzania

ARUSHA Tanzania (Xinhua) -- The deadly Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) disease has wreaked havoc in northern Tanzania’s district of Arumeru, subjecting hundreds of growers to unimaginable losses, authorities said Friday.

Grace Solomon, an agricultural officer in Arumeru District said five wards (with more than 30 villages) have been affected with MLN.

The official said that about 340 hectares of maize farms have been destroyed by the deadly disease in the areas located on the slopes of Mount Meru, the second tallest after Kilimanjaro.

MLN landed in Tanzania a few years ago from neighbouring Kenya, hence posing a major food security threat in the east African nation and the region at large. The disease arises from the interaction of two viruses: maize chlorotic mottle virus (MSMV) and a virus from a group named potyviruses, often sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV). 

“We’re encouraging farmers to venture into crop rotation farming technique, which is one of the solutions being proposed to reduce the pain of MLN,” she said, adding: “Other farmers are being told on their need to go into other crops, but, farmers are reluctant to change, arguing that other crops are not as lucrative as maize.”

Crop rotation, according to Grace, helps to break the virus in the soil as the disease is most rampant in maize plantations.

“We’re also encouraging farmers to set on fire the remains of the maize plants because if they are left in the field, the disease will remain as the virus will also remain in that to infect another crop in the next farming season,” Grace said.

Mrisho Gambo, Arusha Regional Commissioner, called upon agricultural experts in the region to work closely with farmers and advise them on how to deal with the disease.

“As a government, we’re working hard to find a sustainable and widely applicable solution to the new maize challenge, which is now posing a food security concern, particularly in the affected areas,” Gambo said, directing extension officers to carry-out regular visits to farmers and collectively address MLN.

Jeremiah Nkatisi, one of the affected farmers in the district said farmers in the area were disappointed by the disease, which seems not easily contained using pesticides.

Like many farmers on slopes of Mount Meru, Nkatisi’s hopes vanished in a thin air, as nothing remained on his five-acre farm because of the disease. 


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