Nelly Bassily | January 5, 2009
Maize farmers plagued by witchweed may soon rejoice. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has developed two varieties of maize that resist Striga hermonthica, better known as witchweed or simply Striga.
Striga affects about two-thirds of Africa’s cereal crops. Annual maize yield losses are estimated at 7 billion American dollars in the savannah region of sub-Saharan Africa. This affects the lives and livelihoods of more than 100 million Africans.
Abdele Menkir is IITA’s maize breeder. He says that disease-resistant cultivars represent the most economical and sustainable way to control Striga. This approach can be used alone, or in combination with other management options such as rotating between maize and legumes or intercropping beneficial plants that push out weeds.
The Striga-resistant cultivars developed by IITA are called Sammaz 15 and Sammaz 16. Sammaz 15 is an intermediate-maturing variety (it matures in 100-110 days). It can produce about 4.4 tons of maize per hectare under Striga infestation. Sammaz 16 is a late-maturing variety (it matures in 110-120 days). It can withstand extreme Striga infestation with only 10 per cent harvest loss. The new varieties became available to Nigerian farmers in December.
For more information about the new maize varieties, and for IITA’s contact information, go to: (IITA researchers may be able to tell you when the new maize varieties will be available in your country.) http://www.iita.org/cms/details/news_summary.aspx?articleid=1963&zoneid=342.
For Farm Radio International scripts on managing Striga, go to: http://www.farmradio.org/english/search/search.cgi?zoom_query=striga.