August 27, 2018
Paul Kuria, a research scientist from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in Nairobi, Kenya arrived at Iowa State University (ISU) on June 18, 2018 for a 12-week program as part of the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. Paul is being hosted by the Global Programs Department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and mentored by Dr. Allen Miller, Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology.
Previously, Paul conducted his Ph.D. research on the cassava viruses at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri and gained many skills that he is applying during his time at Iowa State. While working for KALRO, he completed several grant applications on maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND), a recently emerged maize viral disease caused by synergy between maize chlorotic mottle virus (MCMV) and any cereal-infecting viruses in family potyviridae. During this time, he learned more about the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. Paul was paired with Dr. Miller at Iowa State University because of Dr. Miller’s current research focuses on molecular mechanisms of viruses and his lab is currently working on maize chlorotic mottle virus.
During his time at Iowa State, Paul has been working with Dr. Miller and his team to identify genes and their mechanisms of imparting resistance and tolerance to MLND. The current effects of the MLND in East Africa are devastating as maize is the largest crop and primary cash flow in the area and much of the money that the government has set aside for infrastructure in the country is being used to battle the disease and import maize from other countries. Paul mentioned that most of the small scale farmers in Kenya are more impacted by the disease because their farming operations are smaller (acres size) and they do not have the additional income to add preventatives and optimally control the virus as much as large scale farmers. The MLND has resulted in 50-100% loss and is exacerbated during the periods of drought. While researching the MLND at Iowa State, Paul evaluated five maize genotypes obtained from the USDA Plant Introduction research, Ames, IA that have been shown to confer tolerance response to MCMV but the underlying mechanisms is not known.
Upon return to Nairobi, Paul will continue working together with MLND team at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization to provide solutions to reduce or eliminate the MLND in maize crops. In the future, Paul hopes to write additional grants for research and use the connections he has made while in the United States to network and potentially create future collaboration on research.
Additional story on Paul Kuria provided by the Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology.