Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New witchweed-fighting method, presented by CIMMYT and Weizmann Institute scientist

02.07.2002


Technique could dramatically diminish hunger in Africa

Corn harvests on experimental plots and in farmers’ fields in four East and Southern African countries have yielded striking results in long-term trials of an innovative witchweed-fighting technology developed by a Weizmann Institute scientist in collaboration with researchers at CIMMYT (the Spanish acronym for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center). The new technology will be presented to seed producers, government representatives, regional scientists and regulatory agencies at a CIMMYT-sponsored meeting in Kisumu, Kenya on July 4-6, 2002.

The meeting, entitled "A Herbicide-Resistant Maize Method for Striga Control: A Meeting to Explore the Commercial Possibilities," will demonstrate the results of the new technology in the field, present the current status of this herbicide-resistant maize technology, assess its commercial and regulatory aspects and evaluate its future. The meeting is designed to expose interested parties in the public and private sectors to a powerful new weapon that could dramatically alleviate the Striga scourge.



At the UN-sponsored World Food Summit in Rome (June 10-13), UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that as many as 24,000 people a day die of starvation around the world. This devastation is substantially concentrated in Africa. A major contributor to the problem is Striga hermonthica, or witchweed, a parasitic weed that ravages grain crops in several parts of the world–particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the weed infests approximately 20 to 40 million hectares of farmland cultivated by poor farmers and is responsible for lost yields valued at approximately $1 billion annually. An estimated 100 million farmers lose from 20 to 80 percent of their yields to this parasite. In Kenya alone it severely infests 150,000 hectares of land (76 percent of the farmland in Western Kenya), causing an estimated annual crop loss valued at $38 million.

The weed thrives by attaching itself, hypodermic-like, to the roots of a suitable host crop. It sends up a signal that says "feed me," and not only sucks up the crop’s energy, but also competes for much of its nutrients and water, while poisoning the crop with toxins and stunting its growth.

Until now, other methods to control this parasitic weed have been long-term and often impractical and, hence, have not been widely adopted by farmers. African farmers commonly remove the witchweed by hand, but by the time it emerges above ground, it has already drained the crop and done its damage. Herbicides, applied during that same post-emergence period, are also ineffective for the same reason.

Prof. Jonathan Gressel of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Plant Sciences proposed an innovative solution to the parasitic weed problem that relies on a new use for a certain type of corn that was developed, using biotechnology, in the U.S. The corn carries a mutant gene that confers resistance to a specific herbicide, leaving the corn plant unharmed when treated with this herbicide. As an alternative to spraying entire fields, Prof. Gressel suggested that herbicide-resistant seeds be coated with the herbicide before planting. Once the crop’s plants sprout from the seeds, the parasites unwittingly devour the weed-killing chemical from the crop roots or surrounding soil and die. By the time the crop ripens, the herbicide, applied in this way at less than 1/10th the normal rate, has disappeared, leaving the food product unaffected.

Dr. Fred Kanampiu, a CIMMYT scientist based in Kenya, has tested this approach for more than ten crop seasons while CIMMYT breeders crossed the gene into African corn to produce high-yielding varieties that are resistant to major African diseases, as well as to the herbicide. Witchweed was virtually eliminated in plots planted with herbicide-coated seeds, as will be shown at the Kisumu meeting. The experiments indicate that a low-dose herbicide seed coating on resistant corn can increase yields up to four-fold in fields highly infested with witchweed. The herbicide is coated on the seed together with the fungicide-insecticide mix that is normally used in Africa to provide healthy plants. With this technology the farmer does not have to purchase spray equipment and can continue interplanting legumes between the corn plants – a common practice among smallholder African farmers.


This research was supported in part by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through the CIMMYT East Africa Cereals Program and by the Rockefeller Foundation. Initial herbicide-resistant corn seeds for breeding into CIMMYT varieties were provided by Pioneer International, USA.

Prof. Gressel holds the Gilbert de Botton Chair of Plant Sciences at the Weizmann Institute.

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel is one of the world’s foremost centers of scientific research and graduate study. Its 2,500 scientists, students, technicians and engineers pursue basic research in the quest for knowledge and to enhance the quality of human life. New ways of fighting disease and hunger, protecting the environment, and harnessing alternative sources of energy are high priorities at Weizmann.


Jeffrey J. Sussman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.weizmann.ac.il/

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

nachricht Ecological intensification of agriculture
09.09.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New welding process joins dissimilar sheets better

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...

Im Focus: First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source

Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.

Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

HLF: From an experiment to an establishment

29.09.2016 | Event News

European Health Forum Gastein 2016 kicks off today

28.09.2016 | Event News

Laser use for neurosurgery and biofabrication - LaserForum 2016 focuses on medical technology

27.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Multiferroic Materials from Building Blocks

29.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Silicon Fluorescent Material Developed Enabling Observations under a Bright “Biological Optical Window”

29.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

X-shape Bio-inspired Structures

29.09.2016 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>