Was this the first ever maize pathology workshop held on the “on the equator”? Possibly! Maseno University in Western Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria, is situated in a hot and humid region.  Fungal foliar diseases and pests of maize abound in the region since chemical control is seldom applied and maize production continues all year round. 

FABIans from the MPPI (Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions) research group Prof Dave Berger and David Nsibo, together with Dr Irene Barnes (TPCP, CTHB) presented the workshop.  It was attended by academics and postgraduates from Maseno Unversity, including Dennis Omondi, an MSc student co-supervised by Prof Berger and Prof Dida, our host from Maseno University. Researchers from Seed Co. Ltd (Kenya), and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) also participated. 

Day one covered disease and pest diagnostics and phenotyping for a maize breeding programme. Guest speaker Dr Suresh from CIMMYT-Kenya spoke on maize viral diseases, and Prof Dida covered resistance breeding.  Day two included field work, where maize plots at the Maseno University research farm were scored for the main foliar diseases. A microscopy practical followed. A highlight was capturing images of urediniospores of polysora rust and conidia of turcicum leaf blight from samples collected in the field.  Day three was a series of hands-on tutorials on molecular diagnostics of fungi, including BLAST searches at the NCBI database, and construction of phylogenetic trees to ensure accurate species identification. David Nsibo illustrated population genetics for crop protection by presenting some of his PhD findings on the grey leaf spot pathogen of maize. 

The workshop was funded through the Kenya-South Africa Joint Science and Technology Research Collaboration (NRF-South Africa, NRF-Kenya), with sponsorship from Inqaba Biotec This activity illustrates the ongoing collaboration of FABI with colleagues in other African countries, in the spirit of Future Africa.