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Tuesday,November 13,2018 19:41 PM

Having maize of every stage 'can increase diseases'

By Noah Jagwe

Added 18th November 2016 01:38 PM

"Once you have maize of every stage, it exacerbates the situation."

Maize 703x422

NACRRI's Solomon Kaboyo showing some of the maize under research on drought and stem bore tolerance in Kasese. (Credit: Noah Jagwe)

"Once you have maize of every stage, it exacerbates the situation."

High importance is attached to maize being a staple crop for Uganda, with over 80% of farmers taking part in it. As such, this calls for better and up-to-date methods to grow it.

But above all, having maize of all stages in one particular area is discouraged by agriculturalists.

Such practice expedites the spread of diseases like stem borers or stalk borers as well as Maize lethal Necrosis which result in losses to the farmers. Statistics indicate that 30% of yield losses are attributed to stem borers.

Solomon Kaboyo, from the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NACRRI), says in most cases pests build up because there is too much to feed on.

"Once you have maize of every stage, it exacerbates the situation."

One way to deal with the pest can be introducing hybrid maize that can resist the stem borers or stalk borers. However, Kaboyo argues this solution at the moment may not work minus the parliament passing a bill on genetically modified crops.

"We have all crops in our laboratories but as per now we cannot release them for commercial purposes," says Kaboyo.

Other countries in the region, Kenya and more recently Tanzania, planted their first genetically modified maize.

 

Pesticides are also a remedy but various agro-dealers have adulterated the pesticides which has rendered them ineffective.

However, Kaboyo admits that the incidence of stem borers has been so unique this season. "Different parts of the country have been affected by the same. It's not only here [Kasese] but others too," he says.

It's better for farmers to produce off-season: when there is no pollen grain around to contaminate the gardens, adds Kaboyo.

Benius Tuharikirwa, inspector of crops in the agriculture ministry, says farmers need to plant maize early in the season so that the maize passes the most preferred stage of the caterpillar.

Crop rotation with non-host crops (non-cereals) is also another solution: Plant maize and cowpeas in the same garden to reduce population of caterpillars.

Another is using pull-push strategy: In-between maize rows, plant Desmodium to repel stalk borers from the maize.

Plant Napier grass along at the borders of the maize as a trap crop to pull stalk borers away from the maize.

After harvest, destroy crop residues in order to kill larvae and pupae in stalks or feed them to livestock.

Manifestations in maize

Several farmers in Mobuku Irrigation Scheme are decrying similar challenges of maize stem borer that have affected their gardens.

"There is chaos in our farms. Maize has dried up. Farmers have overspread pesticides but this has had no solution," says Frank Twinamastiko, the Chairman Basajja Kweyamba, an association that unites farmers dealing in maize in Mobuku Settlement Scheme.

He says that as farmers they have summoned meetings with extension workers but no solutions have been availed.

"Farmers have overdosed the maize. They have used this and that."

But Twinamastiko says limited land has continued to affect maize production in the area.

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