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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. Low-
dose 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. Post-
emergence 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 sub-
Saharan Africa where Striga is endemic.


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 16-
18, 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 Semi-
Arid 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)

Name: Elphigio Magejo

Module: Weed science

Lecturer: Mr. Mandumbu

Intake: seven

Assignment: 2

For a parasitic weed of your choice discuss the following

a) Name and classification

b) Ecology
c) Control