Maize farmers in Mukono district are deeply concerned about the outbreak of a rapidly spreading and devastating new disease that attacks the crop causing nearly 100 percent loss in yield.
The disease is characterised with rotting of the tassel or the male part, Bulambuli over the past few months.
Dr. Godfrey Asea, a Maize breeder at the National Crop Resources Institute at Namulonge, says the Maize Lethal Narcosis disease had not been confirmed yet in Central Uganda, but added that they will investigate the cases in Mukono.
Godfrey Musoke, a farmer in Mukono says the disease started with the July crop of last year but mostly affected the off-season farmers like him who target buyers of fresh cobs for roasting.
Musoke says: “This disease started around July of last year 2013. We started seeing leaves dry. Almost the entire field was affected by the disease.
“At first we thought the problem was due to herbicides. Soon after, we learnt that several farmers were experiencing similar problems. We then thought that may be it is the seeds. But we realised that farmers who had bought from different companies such as Naseco, Fika and victoria seeds were all facing the same problem. That is when we noticed that it was a disease.”
“Musoke explains that the disease affects the tassel and prevents the plant from developing grain.”
The disease has hit Musoke financially already, as he explains. “I planted seven acres here last season but I am likely to lose everything. It’s a major loss because I used about Ushs 1.5 million.
I realised however that the disease mostly affects the off-season crop. So this time, I’ve decided not to plant out of season,”If the disease continues at the current speed, Musoke says he will abandon the crop altogether.
Dr. Asea said they are working on having a tolerant variety. The time it takes for them is of essence, because the disease threatens to wipe out maize growing in the country, if no urgent solution is sought.
Maize is a major food security crop but also helps millions of households to get income by selling excess produce, while others depend on it as a trade commodity, or as an input in the animal and poultry feeds industry.