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September 29, 2008

ICRISAT develops striga-resistant sorghum variety

Sorghum production is set to increase following the development of a variety that is resistance to the deadly weed that has been wiping out the produce from the farms for years. The scientific breakthrough is the first in the history of sorghum farming in Africa.

Sorghum is among the crops being touted as strategic to Africa’s future food needs because of its ability to withstand drought. The weed known as striga or the witchweed destroys between 40 to 100 per cent of a complete season’s crop. Its annual crop damage across Africa is estimated at about Sh450 billion.

Currently, the weed threatens to wipe out cereal crops in most of western Kenya and eastern Uganda, national agricultural research institutes in the two countries have warned.

Dr Dionysious Kiambi, a molecular geneticist with the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, said scientists have determined the precise segments of the sorghum genome known to confer Striga-resistance and have transferred them to farmer-preferred varieties through conventional breeding with very promising results.

The scientists said they have been working with national and international collaborators for several years experimenting with marker-assisted selection in search of Striga-resistant genes from other sorghum varieties conserved in gene-banks across the world.


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