Update: Plant Health News (02 Dec 15)

TheGates Foundation has approved funding  for KAUST to conduct research into eradicating witchweed in sub-Saharan Africa. (IITA)
The Gates Foundation has approved funding for research into eradicating witchweed in sub-Saharan Africa. (IITA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a boost for parasitic weed research in Africa from the Gates Foundation, benefits of modern farming come to Peru and a surge in climate change-related disasters posing a growing threat to food security.

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Update: Plant Health News (11 Feb 15)

Maize plants infested by Striga © IITA (CC BY-NC)
Maize plants infested by Striga © IITA (CC BY-NC)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including Striga resistant maize yielding well in Kenya, scientists in the UK  finding a potential way to control leaf blotch disease in wheat and a grant under the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) to help small scale rice producers by creating better linkages in the rice value chain.

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Parasitic Witchweed defeated in Kenya

Striga Weed in a rice field © AfricaRice (License CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Striga Weed in a rice field © AfricaRice (License CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Striga, a parasitic weed (also known as Witchweed,) has long been a problem in African nations; causing farmers to lose billions of dollars’ worth of crops annually. To make matters worse, the weed flourishes in conditions that characterise that of poor farming communities (small plots, mono-cropping, lack of oxen and natural manure and lack of agricultural inputs.)

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Solution to devastating weed draws closer for sub Saharan Africa

Yield reductions due to highly invasive parasitic Striga may soon be a thing of the past. (Flickr, CIMMYT CCBY-NC-SA 2.0)

Striga, commonly known as witchweed, is a group of parasitic weeds found in over a third of cereal crops in sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Crops typically yield at least 40% less when they are parasitised by Striga, causing an estimated US$ 7 billion loss and reducing the food security of millions.  Continue reading

Stopping Striga before it’s started

The flowers might look pretty but Striga has affected millions of hectares of crops in Africa © IITA Image Library (Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Striga, or witchweed, is the main weed affecting many cereals including rice, maize, sorghum and millet. One species, Striga hermonthica, is responsible for more crop loss in Africa than any other individual species of weed. Striga is a hemi-parasitic weed; its roots latch onto the roots of its host (e.g. a crop plant such as rice) and take water and nutrients from the host plant. Muhammad Jamil and his colleagues at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have found a way to reduce germination of Striga seeds, thereby preventing crop plants from being affected in the first place.

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Improved understanding of Striga resistance in rice

Striga infected field. USDA APHIS PPQ Archive, Bugwood.org

A group of scientists from the Netherlands, UK and Africa have studied upland NERICA rice cultivars to identify those that exhibit multi-level striga resistance. In two separate research papers, the 18 NEw RICe for Africa (NERICA) cultivars and their parents were screened for pre- and post- attachment striga resistance. One particular cultivar NERICA 1 was shown to possess high levels of both these types of resistances.

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