Striga or witchweed, is a group of parasitic weeds found in over a third of cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Crops 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 of people.
This weed affects the roots of crops such as maize, sorghum, millet and rice – redirects water and nutrients away from host plants, causing stunted growth as well as reduced yield. The impacts that Striga has are felt most severely by the poorest subsistence farmers who already struggle to produce enough food.
The devastating impact of this weed, which in extreme cases can result in complete crop failure, is thought to be the major constraint to cereal production in SSA.
The control of this plant is extremely difficult and all previous methods have proven ineffective. Striga seeds are able to survive for over 20 years, so even when the problem appears to have been solved, the weeds can return from dormancy in the soil and rapidly re-colonise.
Research is being carried out at the University of Sheffield by Professor Julie Scholes who is looking at finding a definitive method of easing the impacts felt as a result of this destructive weed. The project forms part of the £7 million Sustainable Agriculture Research for International Development programme established for the Department for International Development and the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council.
In simple terms, lose less, feed more.
In simpler terms – makes Japanese Knotweed look like a bit of a pussy.