Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN), an emerging threat to maize-based food security in sub-Saharan Africa
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In sub-Saharan Africa, maize is a staple food and key determinant of food security for smallholder farming communities. Pest and disease outbreaks are key constraints to maize productivity. In September 2011, a serious disease outbreak, later diagnosed as maize lethal necrosis (MLN), was reported on maize in Kenya. The disease has since been confirmed in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and similar symptoms have been reported in Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. In 2012, yield losses of up to 90% resulted in an estimated grain loss of 126,000 metric tons valued at $ 52 million in Kenya alone. In eastern Africa, MLN was found to result from coinfection of maize with Maize chlorotic mottle virus (MCMV) and Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV), although MCMV alone appears to cause significant crop losses. We summarize here the results of collaborative research undertaken to understand the biology and epidemiology of MLN in East Africa and to develop disease management strategies, including identification of MLN-tolerant maize germplasm. We discuss recent progress, identify major issues requiring further research, and discuss the possible next steps for effective management of MLN.
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