Striga Management through Herbicide Resistance: A Public-Private Partnership in Action
Woomer, Paul L.
Savala, Canon N.
Striga is an indigenous parasitic weed that attacks cereals and other crops in Africa. In maize croplands alone, Striga infests over 2.3 million ha resulting in 1.6 million tons of grain loss worth US $383 million annually. An innovative approach to controlling the parasite was to induce herbicide resistance in maize and to coat the seed with herbicide to provide chemical protection from infection. This breakthrough that was realized after 12 years of collaborative research and development by the International Maize and Wheat Centre (CIMMYT), the Kenya Agricultural Research Center (KARI) and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, is now ready for deployment in Sub-Saharan Africa. This effort is most advanced in Kenya, where one variety of the Imazapyr-resistant (IR) maize hybrid aptly named Ua Kayongo (Striga Killer) was tested by over 13,000 households and registered for commercial release by Western Seed Company. Compared to a currently recommended commercial hybrid (H513), Ua Kayongo improved maize yields by 1,022 kg ha-1, reduced Striga expression by 81% and increased farmerâs net return by $143 ha-1 (+63%). This technology occupies a central role in the design of comprehensive Striga Eradication Initiatives in maize fields, but hindrance to achieving this goal has emerged from unlikely sources. Crop breeders committed to developing alternative, Striga-immune varieties self-indulgently dismiss IR maize as a technological dead-end single gene approach, while âgreenâ interests unfairly label IR-maize a GMO. A public-private partnership has formed to deploy IR maize to needy African farmers. Differences in operational approaches are expected among these partners, given their underlying interests and organizational mandates, and it is important that these issues continue to be resolved in a manner that does not lose momentum or shift focus. Now that Striga has become a preventable disorder in maize fields, it is time to minimize the drama and direct all available resources toward assisting Strigaâs victims in Africa. Keywords: Africa, herbicides, Maize, Striga
Agricultural and Food Policy, Community/Rural/Urban Development, Environmental Economics and Policy, Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety, Food Security and Poverty, Health Economics and Policy, Land Economics/Use, Marketing, Productivity Analysis, Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies,
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