Solving Napier Stunt Disease to save the smallholder dairy sector in East Africa – a success story

  • Boniface Aono
  • Published 2013


(icipe) in Kenya, working with national partners in East Africa and Rothamsted Research (UK), and funded by the McKnight Foundation (USA), has found varieties of Napier grass that are resistant to Napier Stunt Disease (NSD). Napier grass is the most important fodder crop in smallholder dairy production systems in East Africa. It is a vital component of the intensive crop–livestock management system which sustains the livelihoods of dairy smallholders. Since the late 1990s, Napier grass has been hit by the increasingly rapid spread of a disease which stunts its growth, often killing the plant. NSD is a considerable and growing threat to livelihoods and the future of the smallholder dairy sector. In 2000, icipe and Rothamsted Research scientists Professors Zeyaur Khan, John Pickett and Lester Wadhams observed for the first time a stunting disease in Napier grass in Teso, western Kenya. They had a special interest in Napier grass as pioneers of push–pull technology, a cereal crop protection system in which it is planted as a trap plant to attract insect pests. Concerned about the threat posed not only to increased uptake of push–pull but also to the smallholder dairy sector, they began to track the spread of the disease. By 2002, they observed that the stunting was spreading rapidly in the region, affecting about a quarter of Napier grass. In response, they initiated research into the causes and transmission of NSD, in order to develop a sustainable disease management approach. The team’s labours bore fruit in 2013 when two NSDresistant cultivars passed on-farm trials, and participating farmers were given the go-ahead to multiply them for wider distribution. But ongoing work is still needed to develop an integrated management system, including the introduction of resistant cultivars, building farmers’ knowledge about how NSD spreads, the proper disposal of diseased plants, the potential role of other grasses as reservoirs of NSD, and diversification of fodder sources. Continuing scientific research is also essential to deepen understanding of the biology and epidemiology of the disease, particularly its potential to spread to food crops. icipe

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Aono2013SolvingNS, title={Solving Napier Stunt Disease to save the smallholder dairy sector in East Africa – a success story}, author={Boniface Aono}, year={2013} }