The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has said it is conducting a nationwide survey to find out if Malawi is safe from Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) which has been spotted in some African countries, including Tanzania.
Senior plant pathologist in the ministry, Johnny Masangwa, said this in an interview last week on the sidelines of a Blantyre Agricultural Development Division (Bladd) and Bvumbwe Research Station joint field day.
He said: “We are currently doing the survey, we are moving in each district testing the crop that is actually in the field. We have concluded the Southern Region and next week [this week] we will be in the Central Region and then the Northern Region.
“Whenever we are conducting these surveys, we just don’t go there to sample and test; we are also carrying awareness messages to farmers and all other stakeholders about this disease. We are also not importing seed and grain from all the MLN disease endemic countries and we are also testing all imports that are coming into the country to prove if they are MLN free.”
Masangwa also said MLN is a “very serious” disease that kills plants at a tender age and, in case of late infection, grain filling is comprised which results in no to two or three grains per cob.
In case of incursion, he said the ministry will quarantine whole areas where the disease will be found.
MLN is a new plant disease in Africa which was spotted in Kenya around 2010.
It is caused by an infection of maize plants with Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus and any other cereal viruses in the Potyviridae group such as Sugarcane Mosaic Virus that produce a synergistic reaction which seriously damages or kills plants.