PerspectiveAgriculture

Can witchweed be wiped out?

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1248-1249
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav8482

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Summary

Root parasitic weeds of the Orobanchaceae such as broomrapes and witchweeds form a serious threat to agriculture in many countries around the world (1). They cause large yield losses in crops such as sorghum, millet, maize, rapeseed, tomato, sunflower, and legumes (1). These obligate parasitic plants are dependent on a host for survival, using them to grow and reproduce on. Therefore, they only germinate in the presence of a germination stimulant exuded by the host root (2). On page 1301 of this issue, Uraguchi et al. (3) reveal the discovery of a potent synthetic germination stimulant. Their discovery provides the basis for the development of an agrochemical that may be used to germinate parasitic weeds in the absence of a host (so that they will die, called suicide germination) and gives insight into what may be determining host specificity of these parasites.