Biotech Updates

Reducing Attacks by Parasitic Plants in Grain Crops

January 13, 2012

Strategies to combat the parasitic weed Striga are important in the quest for food sufficiency in Africa. The parasitic plant affects the African staple cereals such as maize, sorghum, highland rice, and millet resulting to huge losses. In Wageningen University, Muhammad Jamil has studied various approaches to reduce the damage caused by Striga with focus on strigolactones, the compound secreted by the host that signals Striga seed to germinate and attack. Strigolactones are derived from carotene.

Jamil found that reduction in strigolactones content in plants through application of fertilizer and by inhibiting the carotene production reduced Striga seed germination by up to 75 percent. He further observed that different varieties vary with the amount of strigolactone produced, affecting Striga attack. These results may be useful in developing cheaper and effective technologies to reduce attack of the Striga parasite and allow African farmers to produce more food and achieve a better income.

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