Written by Shillah Mwadosho
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The Ministry of Agriculture is calling on farmers in Nandi County to be on high alert over a strange disease that is attacking maize crops.
Kapsabet District Agricultural officer Thomas Bett urged the farmers to report “immediately” when they see symptom of the disease before it is too late.
He said that it was not certain which particular part of the crop the disease attacks but explained that it is characterized by scorching of leaves that turns them to a brownish colour.
Bett said that the cause of the disease has not yet been established but added that Kenya Agricultural Research institute (KARI) was conducting a research on it.
He further added that some samples have also been sent to United States for further research.
The officer told farmers not to take the matter lightly since research indicates that Nandi County was vulnerable to the attack.
He said, “The disease affects crops since they sprout from the soil until when they are knee high. This region is susceptible to the disease attack because of weather and the nature of soil.”
Maize farmers inspecting their maize farms after it was reported that a strange disease was attacking the maize crop.
Speaking during a field day where a modern nursery for establishment of passion fruits seedlings in Chepterit in Nandi central district was launched by USAID, Bett said that there was need for farmers to regularly inspect their crops.
Bett said that since effects of the disease have not been established, attacked crops would be uprooted and burnt when experts have confirmed that a crop has been attacked by the disease.
He said, “We do not want farmers to risk their lives and incur losses. We have to destroy the diseased crop to avoid further spread.”
The disease, he said, has been reported in Bomet and Transmara counties and alarm had been raised by experts that it was spreading to other parts that grow maize.
Bett was accompanied by Kapsabet District Officer Stella Wanyela who also advised farmers to work closely with agricultural officers so as to curb losses incurred through crop diseases.
Wanyela said that the call for alarm should be respected since losses would be incurred by farmers in case of an attack.
She said, “This is a serious matter that calls for action on the side of the farmers. Please report when you see symptoms.”
Wanyela further said that farmers should be aware of climate change that has brought devastating effects on agriculture adding that it was not enough to blame the quality farm inputs.
“I know that there is a tendency of farmers to question the quality farm inputs when they see signs of a disease but let experts explain the matter upon their inspection.”
She further called on chiefs and their assistants to monitor the situation and report any suspicious case as required.
A section of maize farmers told Westfm that agricultural officers should not assume that farmers would report to them as they expect since many of them do not take such a matter seriously.
They said “most farmers are too busy to respond to such requests by agricultural officers. Some may even destroy the diseased crop instead of reporting.”
To them it was necessary for officers to visit farms and carry the inspection themselves rather than “sit in their offices and wait for calls.”
Present during the function also included a representative of USAID Ian Chesteman who advised farmers to invest on several crop productions so as to generate more income.
He said, “passion fruits generate a lot of money and it is wise for farmers to invest on it.”
He said farmers should take advantage of the high demand of the fruit in foreign nations by increasing their production.
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