Sustainable control of plant diseases requires a good understanding of the epidemiological aspects such as the biology of the causal pathogens. In the current study, we used RT-PCR and Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to contribute to the characterization of maize lethal necrotic (MLN) viruses and to identify other possible viruses that could represent a future threat in maize production in Tanzania. RT-PCR screening for Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMV) detected the virus in the majority (97%) of the samples (n=223). Analysis of a subset (n=48) of the samples using NGS-Illumina Miseq detected MCMV and Sugarcane Mosaic Virus (SCMV) at a co-infection of 62%. The analysis further detected Maize streak virus with an 8% incidence in samples where MCMV and SCMV were also detected. In addition, signatures of Maize dwarf mosaic virus, Sorghum mosaic virus, Maize yellow dwarf virus-RMV and Barley yellow dwarf virus were detected with low coverage. Phylogenetic analysis of the viral coat protein showed that isolates of MCMV and SCMV were similar to those previously reported in East Africa and Hebei, China. Besides characterization, we used farmers' interviews and direct field observations to give insights into MLN status in different agro-ecological zones (AEZs) in Kilimanjaro, Mayara, and Arusha. Through the survey, we showed that the prevalence of MLN differed across regions (P = 0.0012) and villages (P < 0.0001) but not across AEZs (P > 0.05). The study shows changing MLN dynamicsin Tanzania and emphasizes the need for regional scientists to utilize farmers' awareness in managing the disease.
Keywords: MLN prevalence; Maize chlorotic mottle virus; Sugarcane mosaic virus; next-generation sequencing; phylogenetic analysis.