A team From JCA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) is visiting The College of Agricultural Studies to discuss a project pertaining to Food Security and Parasitic Weeds
Striga hermonthica is a debilitating root parasitic weed which predominates in the semi-arid regions of Sub Saharan Africa. It parasitizes important food crops including sorghum, millet, maize and rice and losses are often significant and may reach 100% under heavy infestations. The parasite life cycle is closely cued to that of its host. The parasite germinates in response to a stimulant exuded by roots of host and some non-host plants. Following germination and in response to a second host derived stimulant the parasite is induced to form a haustorium which penetrates the host root and establishes connection with the vascular system. The parasite remains subterranean and totally dependent on its host for nutrients, water and carbon containing compounds for 6-8 weeks prior to emergence. During this period the parasite is most damaging and is difficult to control by conventional methods. Sorghum and millet, the main hosts of the parasite and the main staple food for the Sudanese populace, are planted in over 7 million hectares. Rice, a potential crop, which is in the process of being introduced into the country, is also susceptible to the parasite. Available control measures include resistant varieties, heavy rates of nitrogenous fertilizers and herbicides. Resistant varieties are often low yielder, not well adapted to the region, not acceptable to farmers and resistance is often not durable and varies with soil fertility and the size of the seed bank. Herbicides and fertilizers are expensive and are not economically viable in low-input farming systems where the parasite is most problematic. Hand pulling is labour intensive, not attractive and does not benefit the current crop as it is only feasible after emergence of the parasite by which time most of the damage is inflected. Use of germination stimulants to induce suicidal germination, away from or in absence of the host proved ineffective because of lack of stability of the currently available stimulants. The need for to increase farmers awareness about Striga and to develop simple, inexpensive methods which control Striga at early developmental stages and suit, resource poor mostly illiterate, subsistence farmers is imperative. To this end a group of scientists and administrators, from JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) head office in Tokyo, is to visit the Sudan University of Science and Technology in the period 1st -10th of September. During this period the group is to discuss the project implementation plan with researchers from the College of Agricultural Studies together with their national collaborators.