Biotech Updates

African Researchers and Farmers Begin Effort to Reduce Crop Loss from Striga

June 3, 2011

After a thorough assessment of Striga's deadly effect on corn farms and on the lives of the people, the parasitic weed is already being named as a plant ‘vampire' that robs farmers of their harvest. The weed has spread across Kenya and Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries causing yield losses of up to 80 percent and affecting approximately 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. 

To help 200,000 maize farmers and 50,000 cowpea farmers, a $ 9.0 million project by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is being launched, with a $6.75 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The four-year project aims to improve and expand access to methods of Striga control and support research to identify the most effective means of controlling the parasitic weed under varying conditions. The project will evaluate and implement four approaches in a two year evaluation period: using Striga-resistant crop varieties; using a "push-pull" technology that involves intercropping with specific forage legumes that inhibit the germination of Striga; using herbicide-coated seeds; and deploying biocontrol of Striga.  

It is hoped that the best approach can control witchweed and can generate an estimated $8.6 million worth of additional grain (maize and legumes) annually at the project locations—resulting in increased incomes, better nutrition, and reduced poverty, as well as employment opportunities from grain production to food markets.

For details on the project implementation and on the Striga damage see the news at