DOI: 10.7717/peerj.15685 ISSN: 2167-8359

Major biotic stresses affecting maize production in Kenya and their implications for food security

Faith Njeru, Angeline Wambua, Edward Muge, Geert Haesaert, Jan Gettemans, Gerald Misinzo
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Maize (Zea mays L.) is a staple food for many households in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and also contributes to the gross domestic product (GDP). However, the maize yields reported in most SSA countries are very low and this is mainly attributed to biotic and abiotic stresses. These stresses have been exacerbated by climate change which has led to long periods of drought or heavy flooding and the emergence of new biotic stresses. Few reports exist which compile the biotic stresses affecting maize production in SSA. Here, five major biotic stresses of maize in Kenya are presented which are attributed to high yield losses. They include Maize lethal necrosis, fall armyworm, gray leaf spot, turcicum leaf blight and desert locusts. Maize lethal necrosis and fall armyworm are new biotic stresses to the Kenyan maize farmer while gray leaf spot, and turcicum leaf blight are endemic to the region. The invasion by the desert locusts is speculated to be caused by climate change. The biotic stresses cause a reduction in maize yield of 30–100% threatening food security. Therefore, this review focuses on the cause, control measures employed to control these diseases and future prospective. There should be deliberate efforts from the government and researchers to control biotic stresses affecting maize yields as the effect of these stresses is being exacerbated by the changing climate.

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