Crop Biotech Update

High-protein Maize Shows Resistance to Parasitic Weed

June 20, 2018

A study by researchers from Africa identified four varieties of high-protein maize, which are resistant to, or tolerant of semi-parasitic weed, Striga.

Maize is a widely accepted staple food in many countries. However, farmers growing maize face many challenges such as drought, diseases, and pests. In sub-Saharan Africa, 20 to 80% maize yields may be lost because of Striga. In some areas with Striga infestation, farmers may even lose their entire crops and be forced to abandon their farms. According to co-author Peter Setimela from  International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Striga affects fields with poor soil fertility and can stay in the soil for more than 15 years.

The high-protein maize varieties would prove to be advantageous for both farmers and consumers around the globe. Many small farmers would not have to buy chemicals to control Striga and other chemical fertilizers. They can continue growing maize even in areas with Striga. Consumers would benefit from the rich nutritional content of the high-protein maize varieties. Unlike typical maize varieties, the high-protein maize varieties contain a vast array of amino acids which are building blocks of protein, help growth and development, and strengthen the immune system. This is especially beneficial for rural populations that depend on maize as a staple food but have limited access to protein sources such as eggs, meat, and dairy products.

Setimela commented that these high-protein maize varieties can improve food security and nutrition.

Read the abstract in Crop Science.