Striga Control in Maize - Managing a Cereal Killer

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Striga (witchweed) is a parasitic weed that seriously constrains the productivity of staples such as maize, sorghum, millet and upland rice in Sub-Saharan Africa. The weed survives by siphoning off water and nutrients from the crops for its own growth. It causes serious damage to its host crop before emerging from the soil by producing phytotoxins which are harmful to the host crop. Upon attachment to host roots, it withdraws photosynthate, minerals and water, resulting in characteristic “witch” appearance of the host crop manifested by stunting and withering. Striga infests as much as 40 million hectares of smallholder farmland in the region and causes yield losses ranging from 20–80% and even total crop failure in severe infestation. Striga seeds remain dormant and viable in the soil for up to 20 years. With every planting season, some of the dormant seeds, stimulated by crop exudates, germinate and infest the host crop while reproducing and increasing the Striga seeds in the soil thus escalating the problem. AATF is collaborating in a public/private sector partnership project to promote technological interventions for the control of Striga in maize in Africa.

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