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Uproot maize plants with lethal necrosis disease

Maize lethal necrosis disease, ,

Recognize the problem

Maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) is a deadly disease of maize. It is caused by two types of viruses which together kill the plant. At early stages, MLND causes many long yellow stripes on leaves. This resembles maize streak virus disease but MLND stripes are wider. Later, the plant leaf edges become entirely yellow, and dry out from the edges towards the midrib. This is called necrosis. Another disease, Angular Leaf Spot Disease, can cause drying but only in small patches across a leaf. MLND can also cause dwarfing and premature aging of the plants. Finally, the entire plant dries out and dies. Dead plants can then be seen scattered across the field among healthy looking plants. Late infection of plants can cause failed tassel development and poor grain filling of cobs.


The disease is very severe during the dry season when there is little water in the soil. Sufficient rain can reduce the problem slightly so it is important to plant maize during the long rains and to avoid the short rain period by planting other crops. Uprooting and burning of diseased plants is needed to get rid of the source of the disease in the field.  The viruses are not found in the soil. Aphids, thrips and planthoppers carry the viruses from one plant to another. There are no resistant varieties against this disease yet in East Africa.
Maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) is a co-infection with Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus and either Sugarcane Mosaic Virus,  Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus or Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus


  • Scout the maize field once a week at all stages of maize growth to observe symptoms of the disease as early as possible
  • Uproot all of the plants that show symptoms of the disease quickly so that the disease cannot be spread. Do not hesitate to uproot, because the diseased plants will have no yield anyway.
  • Collect all the uprooted plants without soil and carefully move all of them to the edge of the farm into the sun so that they quickly dry and the disease dies.  Burning the uprooted plants is also possible.
  • Effectiveness of this method increases when used together with sprays against aphids, thrips, and planthoppers that spread the disease. WHO toxicity class I products and Tanzania-red-label-products are not advised.  WHO class II and Tanzania-yellow-label-products are not advised in Tanzanian IPM schemes. WHO class III or U and Tanzania-green-label or blue-label-products are preferred. Always double-check with recent list of registered pesticides (MAFC / TPRI).

When using a pesticide, always wear protective clothing and follow the instructions on the product label, such as dosage, timing of application, and pre-harvest interval.

The recommendations in this factsheet are relevant to: Kenya, Tanzania

Authors: Rebecca Mawishe, Jubilant Mwangi, Esther Chacha
Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security & Cooperative MAFC, Plant Health Services
tel: +255 658 216240 email:

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