Cereal Killer under Control
Striga is a parasitic
weed that attacks the roots of maize, sorghum, millet, sugarcane and also
legumes such as cowpeas. Heavy infestation leads to yield losses ranging from
20-80% and total crop failure in severe infestation.
Use of traditional methods in controlling the deadly weed has failed because Striga does most of its damage underground even before it emerges to be visible to farmers. Most times it is too late for the farmer to save their crop.
Use of hand pulling of the weed is not effective and economical as the damage is underground and it requires many hands on the farm, which to a small-scale farmer is not sustainable.
Crop rotation as a method of controlling the weed is time consuming and is not effective in eliminating the seeds of the weed in the soil.
Time of planting also determine the extent of damage as crops planted early in the rains are worst hit by the weed. Under suitable soils and climate condition high planting density in rows help manage the infestation.
Other ways the parasite can be managed is through intercropping. In Kenya intercropping with cowpeas between the rows of maize significantly reduce Striga numbers.
Development of resistant or tolerant maize varieties has shown to be more effective and currently we have resistant varieties adapted to lowlands and mid-altitude areas.
The use of “Push Pull” Technology
Napier grass and desmodium legume are used for management of both stem borer and Striga. Desmodium is planted in between the rows of maize. The legume produces a chemical that repels stem borer moths from the maize crop "Push". Desmodium also covers the surface of the soil and releases a chemical in the ground that inhibits the germination of the weed.
Napier grass is planted around the maize as a trap crop. It attracts the stem borer and "pulls" the moth to lay eggs on it but does not allow stem borer larvae to develop on it. Napier produces sticky glue, which traps larvae that bores into it. Therefore very few stem borer larvae survive, no Striga grows and the maize crop is saved.
AATF is collaborating in a public/private sector partnership project to promote technological interventions for the control of Striga in maize in Africa.
Source: AATF, KARI