Biotech Updates

Fighting the Parasitic Weed Striga

May 9, 2008

Striga (S. hermonthica), is a plant parasitic weed that causes more than 40 percent loss in the annual cowpea yield in sub-Saharan Africa. Also known as witchweed, it infests some 50 million hectares of cereal crops, specifically maize, sorghum and millet. Now the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and its partners from University of McGill (Canada) and University of Hohenheim (Germany) have found a way to control the weed through a biocontrol agent.

The method utilizes a strain of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that originated from Ghana and Nigeria. Mixture of fungal spores and gum Arabic can be used to coat crop seeds. The fungus remains viable for long periods, making the seeds amenable to storage. The method is cheaper, easier to apply and more effective compared to other techniques such as application of post-emergence herbicides. 

The article is available at