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            50ml package of Alfacyper-M 100EC. It is available in different packages affordable to farmers.

    Maize farmers are set to enjoy the sweat of their labour which for long has been affected by deadly maize diseases like streak virus with Alfacyper-M 100EC now affordable to most small holder farmers.

    Under natural infection conditions, maize streak disease can cause yield losses that vary between 33-55% in East Africa as per the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS).

    The virus is transmitted by leafhoppers (Cicadulina spp.) and the symptoms include white to yellowish streaking on the leaves. Plants infected at early stage usually do not produce any cobs and this is a very big loss to a farmer.

    Disease development is promoted by prolonged wetness on foliage, extended dew, Relative Humidity (97-100%) and relatively warm temperatures (24-35° C).

    For farmers keen to use Alfacyper M EC, it is advisable to start spraying one month after planting or when leafhoppers are seen on the crop or when one plant show symptoms.

    Using 20-litre spraying pump, mix 20-30ml of the chemical per 20 liters of water adding each time depending with the size of the farm or garden.

    “A litre of Alfacyper-M 100EC goes for Sh1400 and there are different packages affordable to our customers,” said Abbigail Luvisa, Marketing Manager Murphy Chemicals (E.A.) Ltd.

    Alfacyper-M 100EC is one of the registered crop pesticides for use on crops by Pest Control Products Board (NCPB) under registration number PCPB (CR)0492-p(i).

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    However, prevention is better than cure. For farmers who would like to avoid the costs of the drug they can plant certified seeds, plant early in the season at the onset of rains, keep the field free from weeds, and rotate maize with non-grass crops like potatoes and avoid overlap of two maize crops.

    Farmers are also advised to often monitor their farms at least three times a week and should they identify a plant showing symptoms of the virus, the plant should be uprooted, fed to the livestock or burnt.



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    Aflatoxin infested maize 

    Farmers who have been grappling with afltoxin on their maize and other food crops in Kenya can reduce aflatoxin by a process called nixtamalization developed by researchers at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization (KALRO). Aflatoxin is a highly poisonous cancer-causing chemical produced by a fungus scientifically known as Aspergillus flavus.

    With maize being the staple food crop in Kenya, aflatoxin poses a major public health scare to most consumers of the diet. The infestation by the fungus has led to a significant amount of harvested grains going to waste leading to importation of maize in Kenya.

    Nixtamalization typically refers to a process for the preparation of maize, or other grain, in which the grain is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled.

    READ ALSO: Applying Aflasafe ahead of flowerings stops aflatoxin

    READ ALSO: Simple, cheap aflatoxin testing kit launched for farmers

    READ ALSO: Kenya launches aflatoxin lab to tame spread

    To protect maize from aflatoxin, lime precooking needs to be done using 4kg of dried maize, 6 liters of water and 100gm (2 table spoons lime). If lime is not available, use 1 cup of sieved maize cob or bean Stover ash (soaked in water and sieved).

    Boil the water and the lime. Clean maize and stir while cooking for 20 minutes or until the grain peels easily by hand. Remove the maize from the fire and let it cool or 3 hours. After that, wash while rubbing the grain on a sieve. Mill the grain when still wet to make a dough “Masa”. Use the dough to make many products such as tortilla, crackles, scones, pancake, cookies, and crisps. Alternatively dry the pre-cooked maize, grind into flour and make Ugali.

    Nixtamalization reduces aflatoxin in maize by 60-70%. The process improves bio-availability of protein & Niacin. Niacin prevents pellagra (drying cracking of the skin and mouth). It also increases calcium and phosphorus that give strong teeth and bones. The procedure also diversifies ways of utilizing maize and market potential.



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             banana market.jpg

    Farmer displays banana bunch in a market. Millions of banana consumers may face hunger and starvation if Panama wilt is not controlled. Photo: Getty Images.

    Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Institute (KALRO) alerts farmers of the deadly Panama wilt (Fusarium wilt) disease that puts banana farmers at risk of losing to the disease what they toil for.

    Bananas are a major staple food as well as a cash crop for thousands of small scale farmers in East Africa. In Kenya for instance, bananas are mainly grown in the western and central regions says International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) 2015 report.

    This huge number of farmers and millions of banana consumers may face hunger and starvation if prevention mechanisms are not put in place this early.

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    Panama wilt (Fusarium wilt) caused by a fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc) is an endemic disease on banana in Kenya. Locals refer to it as bokoboko.

    “We have not confirmed the new race (T4) reported in the FAO alert in Kenya. The only races of Fusarium wilt confirmed in Kenya are races 1 and 2,” said Dr Lusike A. Wasilwa –KALRO.

    The fungus Fusarium oxysporum fsp. Cubense race1 causing Panama disease survives in soil and on plant debris and enters the roots through bruises and spreads to the whole plant through conductive tissue in the pseudo stem.

    Farmers should report Panama wilt if they identify yellowing of leaves starting with the oldest to agricultural extension officers for help. More symptoms include some 2 of the leaves droop, turn brown, dry and tear. In some cases, the outer leaf sheaths of the pseudo stem may split longitudinally near the soil level.

    The affected plant by Panama wilt end up not developing sufficiently to produce a mature bunch and the disease can cause total crop loss.

    Some recommended disease control methods include: planting resistant or tolerant varieties; plant quarantine like stopping movement of planting material from affected regions; cultural control like having fields clean of leaves and other plant debris; crop rotation; and disinfest all farm equipment while working between banana stools.

    Farmers should know that bokoboko is a fatal banana disease it can wipe out an entire banana crop of a susceptible variety.

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