According to Raynal-Roques (1996) Striga spp.

belongs to a group of weeds generally known as witch weeds belonging to the family Scrophulariaceae whilst other authors call the family Orobanchaceae. This family includes eight genera of root hemiparasites that damage crops. Forty Striga spp have been reported worldwide: 33 in Africa and seven in Asia. At least 11 species are known to attack important agricultural cereal crops such as maize and sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench]. Rowland (1993) claims that Striga has been given the common name of "witch weed" because of the various debilitating effects inflicted upon its host in addition to attaching to the roots and robbing the host of water and nutrients. The parasitic seed plant of most importance in Africa is the genus Striga (Kingdom Plantae – Plants, Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants, Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants, Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants, Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons. Subclass Asteridae. Order Scrophulariales. Family Scrophulariaceae – Figwort family. Genus Striga Lour. – witchweed) Members of this genus are obligate annual hemiparasites; they are chlorophyllous, but require a host to complete their life cycle (Musselman, 1987). Although 30 or more species of Striga have been described, only 5 are presently of economic importance in Africa (Ramaiah, et al., 1983). These are, in approximate order of economical importance in Africa, Striga hermonthica (Del.) Benth., Striga asiatica (L.) Kuntze, Striga gesnerioides (Willd.) Vatke, Striga aspera (Willd.) Benth., and Striga forbesii Benth. All except S. gesnerioides are parasites of Africa's cereal crops sorghum, millet, maize, and rice. S. gesnerioides is a parasite on cowpea and other wild legumes. According to CDFA (2006) and PIER (2006) striga is native to semi-arid and tropical grassland regions of Africa and Asia, but can also flourish in temperate regions outside its natural range. It is primarily associated with agricultural lands, especially those with light soils and/or low nitrogen fertility where it infests a wide range of grass crops (maize, millet, rice, sorghum, sugarcane) and some


broadleaf crops (e.g. sunflower, tomatoes, some legumes). It will also be found in grasslands. It does not grow in wet conditions Rowland (1993) asserts that two species of the genus Striga spp attack sorghum, millet, and maize while another is specific to cowpeas. Depending upon the extent of infestation, reductions in per hectare grain yield of 30-60% are common. Rowland (1993) concurs with CDFA (2006) and PIER (2006) that Striga is most severe in low moisture, low fertility soils and the thousands of seeds it produces can remain dormant but viable for many years. Infestations reduce yields and contaminate crops. Yield losses of 5-15% are common, although locally, under severe infestations, losses can far exceed this amount. Some striga spp. impairs photosynthesis of susceptible maize hosts through limiting stomatal conductance and sensitises infested plants to photo inhibition. Symptoms in host plants include stunting, chlorosis, and wilting (CDFA, 2006). According to CABI. (2001) Striga spp. attacks important crops such as: corn, sorghum, sugar cane, and rice. It is also known to parasitise certain weedy grasses. Striga spp robs nutrients and moisture by tapping directly into a host's root system. The host expends energy supporting Striga spp. growth at its own expense. Striga spp will grow in the presence of grassy weeds as well as grass host crops, so cotton, peanut, or soyabean fields-along with home gardens or idle land-may harbor this species. The witchweed Striga decimates maize, millet, sorghum, upland rice and Napier throughout sub-Sahara Africa. From the high plateau of East Africa where peasant farmers struggle to survive on tiny fields of maize, to the arid savannas of northern Nigeria where they rely on sorghum, African farmers today are fighting a losing battle against the Striga scourge. Striga is nevertheless more than just an unwanted weed growing in fields meant to produce food. In addition to draining photosynthate, minerals and water, Striga does most of its damage to its host through phytotoxins before the weed emerges from the soil. Striga is a


parasite plant that survives by literally sucking nutrients out of the crops that African farmers use to feed their families. Striga exerts its toll on crops by inserting a sort of underground hypodermic into the roots of growing plants, siphoning off water and nutrients for its own growth.

Lifecycle stages

General life cycle of Striga species (courtesy E. I. Aigbokhan)

Striga flowers and sheds seeds within the life cycle of its host. Seeds are tiny (< 0.3 mm) and one plant can produce 50,000-200,000 of them. At typical infestation densities of 20 plants/m2, annual increases in the size of the Striga seedbank in soil are tremendous. Moreover, unless stimulated to germinate, seeds may remain dormant and viable in the soil for up to 20 years. Striga inflicts most damage on the crop before the weed emerges from the soil. Attachment may occur as early as 2 weeks after germination of maize, depending on the size


of the Striga seedbank in the soil and the exudation of germination stimulant by maize roots in the vicinity of Striga seeds. (Kanambiu and Friesen 2004) Life cycles and symptoms of Striga parasitism are broadly similar, regardless of the host-parasite combination, although there are some minor variations. According to Kanampiu and Friesen (2004) striga control methods have been researched in Africa for over 50 years and have focused on agronomic practices, host plant resistance and herbicide applications. While many are effective, none of these methods has been widely adopted by farmers for several reasons: (i) their benefits are seen only in the medium to long-term since effects build slowly over several seasons, (ii) they require an understanding of Striga life-cycle which farmers usually lack, (iii) they require rotating land out of maize when population pressure requires intensification of land use for food production, (iv) while host plant resistance exists, the gains are inadequate and ineffective under high levels of infestation, and (v) conventional 'over-the-top' herbicide applications are prohibitive in cost and ineffective since damage is done before Striga emerges from the soil. Kanampiu and Friesen (2004) went further to say during the past five years CIMMYT, in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, has developed a unique product for Striga control in maize. It combines low-dose imazapyr (a systemic ALS-inhibiting herbicide) seed coating applied to imazapyr-resistant (IR) maize seed that leaves a field virtually clear of emerging Striga blooms season-long. Small quantities of imazapyr (as little as 30 grams) delivered in this manner act at the time of Striga attachment to the maize root and so prevent the exertion of the phytotoxic effect of Striga on the maize plant which usually occurs even before emergence of the Striga from the soil. Additionally, imazapyr that is not absorbed by the maize seedling diffuses into the surrounding soil and kills ungerminated Striga seeds. (Higher rates may be necessary to achieve full season control using later maturing maize varieties or where the season is longer.)


Kanampiu and Friesen (2004) asserts that this technology has an enormous potential to contain the Striga problem on small-scale farms in Africa. The minute rates of seed-applied herbicide bring a technology within the financial reach of poor farmers with little resources to invest in alternative control options. Lowdose herbicide seed dressing on IR-maize also controls Striga without impacting sensitive intercrops when they are planted 10 cm or more from maize hills. This allows small-scale farmers to continue intercropping, at most with slight modification, while using maize seed treated to control Striga. Since the maize seed is treated, there is no need or added cost for spraying equipment, no possibility of off-target application and little chance of damage to sensitive intercrops. Furthermore, this technology delivers herbicide at rates of about 5% of those recommended for over-the-top herbicide applications, making it an affordable, low-cost solution for Striga control. With effective Striga control, the potential for returns on inputs such as fertilizers and other pest control products is greatly improved. Some authors simply lists the control methods of Striga as Rotation with leguminous trap crops, Strip-cropping or intercropping, Use of clean planting material. Uprooting and burying of Striga plants, adequate fertilization and use of Striga tolerant varieties whilist on the other hand the CDFA (2006) suggests that light infestations can usually be controlled by hand pulling before seed is produced. For heavier infestations, an integrated management plan is required. Options include: 1) growing trap-crops (those that stimulate Striga seed germination but do not host the parasite) such as cotton or catch-crops (susceptible crops that are harvested before striga seed is produced) for 3 or more years; 2) allowing land to lay fallow for several years; injecting the soil with ethylene (a germination stimulant); 3) enhancing soil nitrogen fertility; 4) growing the most tolerant cereal varieties; 5) utilizing herbicides known to prevent Striga emergence or seed production (CDFA, 2006).


Other authorities have taken the study of control methods further like Elzein and Kroschel (2004), they found that the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum abbreviated as Foxy 2, isolated from diseased Striga plants from Ghana, proved to be highly pathogenic against all developmental stages of the parasite, including seeds. Foxy 2 was found to be very effective in reducing the seedbank of Striga by destruction of the seeds and prevention of emergence and subsequent reproduction, however, no severe disease symptoms or death were observed on the emerged Striga shoots but its potential application as a biological control agent for this species is still a possibility for early developmental stages of S. asiatica (Elzein and Kroschel, 2004). Kanampiu and Friesen (2004) cites Kroschel (2002) who advocates for a more cultural based method of controlling Striga spp. He pushes for the use of rotations, saying the most desirable rotational crops are legumes which reduce Striga populations and improve soil fertility. Some legumes, however, are parasitised by Striga and Alectra, which complicates the development of integrated control programs. Went further to say Traditional methods of Striga control which include uprooting, burning and manuring, have proved to be ineffective and alternative technologies exist but they have not been adopted and used as they should because the level of awareness is very low. Rowland (1993) lists the following methods of control that include cultural, biological, mechanical and chemical methods of control. Proper seed selection i.e.use seeds that are Striga seeds-free. Avoid using seeds from the previous harvest if the crops were infested with Striga. Buy the seeds for your next cropping from an agricultural seed store in your locality, Regular plant monitoring, Intercropping sorghum with cowpea, Intercropping corn with silver leaf desmodium (Desmodium uncinatum) or green leaf desmodium (D. intortum). Desmodium is a leguminous plant that is a good source of fodder for the farm animals. When planted as an intercrop, it covers the surface in between the rows of the main crop (corn, sorghum, or millet). Desmodium emits chemical into the


soil that is unfavorable for Striga's growth. 2.5 kg of seeds are needed for 1 ha. Hoeing and hand weeding before Striga plants start to flower. Late weeding requires the burning of collected plants to kill the seeds. Never put them in your compost pile or pit. Off-barring and hilling-up the rows Apply both organic and inorganic fertilizers to improve the crop's stand. Crop rotation with legumes such as soybean, mungbean, and other leguminous crops, to improve the soil condition and deprive the parasitic weeds from favoured host plant. He went further to say practical control methods consist of a combination of crop rotation with non-hosts, weeding/sanitation, and resistant varieties. Therefore once Striga becomes established in a field, eradication is very difficult. Cab (2001) Physical control: Hand pulling at too early stage may break the shoot and reduce the rapid growth. Sparse infestation should be hand pulled shortly before flowering to prevent build up of seed. Such hand pulling should continue through to harvest and beyond so long as flowering is occurring. Cultural control: It has been noted that sorghum plant shading can restrict Striga growth when generous soil fertilizer is applied. In areas of high rainfall, factors such as high plant populations, recommended fertility levels ,and good weed control encourage lush crop growth and shading in spite of Striga parasitism. This is not feasible in moisture stressed rain fed areas. Crop rotation should be practiced with trap crops, which stimulate Striga seeds to germinate without themselves being parasitised. Crops claimed to be effective include: cotton, sunflower, groundnut, castor, dolichos bean, and linseed. Unfortunately once a severe infestation has developed, it may take many years to reduce Striga population in the field to non-damaging level. Cab (2001) went further to describe cultural methods i.e. growing of available resistant varieties help to reduce Striga build up in the field and chemical control: As Striga is a broadleaf plant, pre-plant herbicides such as Atrazine, Goal, and Flex show some effect though not efficient enough to be justified. Postemergence use of 2,4-D is effective when sprayed on the Striga leaves. Though


low in cost, sorghum is vulnerable to stalk twisting and lodging if 2,4-D is sprayed into the leaf whorl. Spraying should only be done by trained labour and cautioned to the hazards. In summary, control of Striga infestation is difficult and requires an integrated approach. On-host crops must be rotated (for two years in heavily infested fields) with resistant varieties. Future outlook and potential impact of various studies on new control methods are currently underway in various research stations across Africa and the whole world for example CIMMYT has developed the herbicide seed-coating technology and appropriate rates for the humid mid-altitude ecology of western Kenya, and is testing the technology in other ecologies in sub-Saharan Africa. Their goal is to deliver this product to farmers in all major agro-ecologies in subSaharan Africa where Striga is endemic.


REFERENCES Berner, D. K., Awad, A. E., and Aigbokhan, E. I. 1994. Potential of imazaquin seed treatment for the control of Striga gesnerioides and Alectra vogelii in cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). Plant Disease 78:18-23. CABI. (2000): Crop protection compendium. Global module, 2nd edition. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK . CABI. (2001): Crop protection compendium. Global module, 3rd edition. CAB International Publishing. Wallingford, UK. Ciotola, M.; Watson, A.K.; Hallett, S.G. 1995. Discovery of an isolate of Fusarium oxysporum with potential to control Striga hermonthica in Africa. Weed Research 35 (4) 303-309. Ciotola, M.; Hallett, S.G.; Watson, A.K. 1996. Impact of Fusarium oxysporum isolate M12-4A, upon seed germination of Striga hermonthica in vitro. Sixth International Parasitic Weed Symposium, pp. 871-875. Moreno, M.T., Cubero, J.I.; Berner D.; Joel, D.; Musselman, L.J.; Parker, C., eds. April 1618, 1996, Cordoba, Spain. Kanampiu.F and Friesen, D (2004) CIMMYT-Kenya Musselman, L. J. (ed). 1987. Taxonomy of witchweeds. Pages 3-12. In Parasitic weeds in agriculture volume I: Striga. CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida, U.S.A. 317 pp. Ramaiah, K. V., Parker, C., Vasudeva Rao, M. J., and Musselman, L. J. 1983. Striga identification and control handbook. Information Bulletin No. 15. Patancheru, A. P., India: International Crops Research Institute for the SemiArid Tropics Raynal-Roques, A. 1996. A hypothetical history of Striga. A preliminary draft. p. 105–111. In M.T. Moreno et al. (ed.). Advances in parasitic plant research. Proceedings of the 6th parasitic weed symposium, Cordoba, Spain. Rowland, J.R.J 1993 Dryland Farming in Africa.Macmillan Press (CRDA library)






Weed science


Mr. Mandumbu





For a parasitic weed of your choice discuss the following a) Name and classification b) Ecology c) Control x


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful