Special News ReportBOTANY

Saving Sorghum by Foiling the Wicked Witchweed

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Science  22 Aug 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5329, pp. 1040
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5329.1040

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One of the greatest sources of crop losses in Africa is not war or corruption but three species of the parasitic plant Striga. Commonly known as witchweed, Striga feeds on the roots of cereals and legumes in much of Africa and South Asia. Estimates of crop losses due to Striga range from 15% to 40% of Africa's total cereal harvest; many areas lose two-thirds or more of their crops every year. Now, the first Striga -resistant variety sorghum, introduced in 1995, is showing great promise in some heavily affected regions.