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Efforts to Develop High-Yielding, Striga-Tolerant Maize Seed is Bearing Fruit

Striga — an invasive parasitic weed with purple-colored flowers — looks striking and harmless. But beyond that mark of beauty is a nutrient-sucking monster that stunts crops such as maize and sorghum, leaving affected farmers counting losses. Witchweed thrives in poor soils with low rainfall conditions. It is prevalent in farming systems with poor crop management practices and in communities where farmers use minimal or no fertilizer. Once maize begins germinating in Striga-prevalent soil, it stimulates Striga seeds to germinate. Striga then attaches to the roots of the host plant, sapping nutrients from the plant which leads to stunting; the potential yield loss can reach up to 100%. Some farmers attempt to uproot it once they notice it germinating alongside their maize plantation, but this is often too late because damage is done as soon as the parasite attaches to the maize roots. When mature, the weed deposits tens of thousands of tiny seeds into the soil. This makes it very difficult for farmers to get rid of it.