African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6574

Full Length Research Paper

Farmers’ perceptions and management of maize ear rots and their implications for breeding for resistance

Mweshi Mukanga1,2*, John Derera1, Pangirayi Tongoona1 and M. D. Laing1
1African Centre for Crop Improvement, School of Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness, University of Kwa--Zulu Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa. 2Mount Makulu Central Research Station, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative, Private Bag 7, Chilanga, Zambia.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 26 June 2011
  •  Published: 19 September 2011


Smallholder farmers’ perceptions and management practices of maize ear rots, and their implications in breeding for host plant resistance were investigated using a participatory rural appraisal in four maize growing locations in central Zambia: Barlastone, Kalimansenga, Kasaka and Mulabo. Focus group discussions and interviews were held with 90 randomly selected farmers on issues regarding major maize constraints, ear rots, associated mycotoxins, coping mechanisms, and existing cropping systems. Ear rots were identified as a serious disease of maize and ranked the third after maize streak virus and northern corn leaf blight. Of the ear rots, Fusarium ear rot caused by Fusarium verticillioides was most abundant. Too much rainfall and lack of disease-resistant varieties were perceived as the main important factors contributing to the high maize ear rot disease incidence.  Less than 7% of the farmers were aware of the mycotoxins, ear rot fungi produce in the infected grain. The main methods of disease management included burning, throwing away, feeding to livestock and at times selling to illicit beer brewers of diseased maize ears and kernels. Though farmers (95%) predominantly grew hybrid maize, they displayed strong preferences for landraces due to their perceived superior disease resistance and other quality traits such as large grain size, taste and white flour. Therefore, it implies that breeding for resistance to ear rot should aim at developing cultivars that are not only ear rot resistant but also possess farmer’s preferred traits.  


Key words: Disease resistance, maize, ear rots, mycotoxins, production constraint, variety preference.