Friday

New technology to fight striga weed

SCIENTISTS have made a major breakthrough in controlling a common weed destroying crops and pastures in eastern and northern Uganda.
The striga weed, a beautiful but parasitic lethal weed, produces purple flowers.

Striga puts its roots around the roots of the crops and competes for food with the crop. It then releases a poisonous chemical to kill the crop.

“Under heavy infestation, striga can cause upto 50% yield loss,” Dr Twaha Kalule, an entomologist with the Cereals Research Programme at Namulonge Agricultural and Animal Production Research Institute (NAARI), said.

Striga is a threat to natural grasslands feeding the wildlife and livestock.

It has affected Jinja, Busia, Iganga, Bugiri, Pallisa, Mbale, Sironko and other eastern districts.

In Kenya, striga has invaded about 200,000 hectares of cropland resulting in losses of about sh800m each year.

To fight striga, farmers in Uganda and Kenya will soon have a new maize hybrid Ua Kayongo that is coated with strigawayTM herbicide to destroy the weed.

The variety is good yielding, early maturing and reduces on the number of weeding times as many weeds are killed off.

According to The Crop Biotech report released recently, “The revolutionary maize technology” kills the germinating striga seeds.
The technology is known as Imazapyr Resistance maize or the Clearfield system.

It is based upon a naturally occurring herbicide resistance by maize that was first identified by researchers at BASF, a Kenyan supplier of agro-chemicals.

It was later incorporated into Kenyan maize varieties by African plant breeders at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.

Currently, three seed companies, Kenya Seed, Lagrotech and Western Seed are producing the new hybrid maize for field-testing during the upcoming rain season and are expected to commercialise their seed.

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