By Wainaina Ndung’u:
Central Province may be on the grip of the destructive maize viral infection that has wreaked havoc in farms in the Rift Valley.
The Provincial Agricultural Office, however, on Sunday said the situation in the province was not grave and only isolated cases had been reported in five of the 38 districts.
“There were about seven to ten plants in half an acre of maize,” said the Provincial Director of Agriculture Joseph Gachingiri.
Officials of the National Drought Management Agency located in semi-arid Kieni area in Nyeri County, however, said the viral infestation was spreading like a bushfire in four locations in Kieni East.
Kieni Arid Lands Management Programme (ALMP) named the five locations as Kimahuri, Kambura-ini, Kabaru and Kiamathaga, saying the infections were killing maize plants, even those with sizeable combs.
“We have seen entire farms rotting in the last few weeks,” said Kiragu Kariuki, the Information Officer at ALMP Kieni.
Mr Kariuki said the viral infection was yet to be certified as similar to the one that afflicted the crop in the Rift Valley. The cases appear to have been reported in areas that neighbour the Rift Valley.
The exception is Kirinyaga East, which neighbours Meru where a suspected infection has been reported in Imenti South.
Imenti South District Agricultural Officer Joseph Mugambi reported necrotic disease in three farms in Kathera location in Nkuene Division. These are the first incidents reported in Mt Kenya region and Eastern Province.
Most of the maize crop in Central Kenya is above adult knee length and at tasselling stage and an attack could occasion irreversible crop failure and lead to food shortage.
Mr Gachingiri said they would not categorise the reported cases as necrotic attack as farm shortcomings such as nitrogen nutrient deficiency has similar symptoms, including leaf yellowing and withering.
ALRMP in Kieni said infections in the four locations have been characterised by yellowing of maize plant at fourth week, mottling and flecking.
“We are asking the farmers to hold their horses until we are able to give appropriate advice,” Gachigiri said on Sunday.
In cases of confirmed viral infections, farmers are advised to uproot the entire infected crop and burn.
“We strongly advise against feeding domestic animals on affected maize as the organisms would find themselves back in form of manure and continue wreaking havoc in subsequent seasons,” said Gachigiri.
Source: East African Standard, Monday 18-6-2012: