Over 300 farmers in Iganga and Namutumba districts in Eastern Uganda participated in harvesting final trials assessing maize varieties with genetic resistance to the parasitic weed-Striga from 23rd – 26th January 2023. Striga is increasingly and spreading in the region devastating cereal crops including maize, sorghum, millet and sim-sim. Through research initiated over 5years ago, maize scientists at NaCRRI have identified and submitted for release of at least one variety that have demonstrated strong resistance to the weed.
Through the Plant Health Initiative-Striga Project funded by CIMMYT, Uganda sourced germplasm with Striga resistance traits from CIMMYT-Kenya and IITA-Nigeria, in order to supplement locally adapted germplasm. “Seven Striga resistant hybrids were obtained from CIMMYT-Kenya and one Striga-resistant hybrid obtained from IITA-Nigeria. These were planted and evaluated on-farm under natural Striga infestations in striga-prone areas including Iganga and Namutumba,” said Dr. Charles Lwanga –the Project PI for Uganda.
Maize yield losses attributed to Striga infestation are said to exceed 70%, especially when the weed infestation combines with other constraints such as diseases, drought and nitrogen stresses. With this, Striga activity is negatively impacting on food security and income of especially smallholder farmers in several districts across Eastern Uganda.
During field days held from 23rd – 26th January 2023 in Namutumba and Iganga districts, farmers and other stakeholders were introduced to the line-up of pipeline materials and provided last-mile data to support release of at least one variety.
“The Variety Release Committee asked us to provide additional data on grain-yield and cobs appealingness to complete the required dataset for release,” Dr. Lwanga noted
According to Bogere Alamazani a 52yr-old farmer in Namutumba district-Kabira village, Striga is a common sight in his community which has led farmers to condemn and abandon some gardens. “Some of us have been forced to abandon highly infested gardens. You can hardly get any maize yields from a completely purple garden,” he said.
The weed is becoming more aggressive-consuming new areas that were previously not affected and current extension efforts have not yielded much according to Sully Bazalaki-Iganga District Agricultural Officer. “The problem is increasing rather than reducing even though government and other development partners have implemented a number of initiatives,” he notes. Bazalaki is optimistic of the forthcoming varieties. “The striga resistant maize is definitely what we need now,” he adds.
A few years ago, the scientists released 4 Imazapyr resistant maize varieties as a stop-gap measure to buffer farmers against the effect of the weed. Marketed under the trade name Kayongo-Go by NASECO, the herbicide-coated maize seed kills Striga in the field before it damages the crop.
Longe 7(IR), NAROMaize 58-IR, 59-IR and 60-IR made way to the market through public campaign to create awareness, enhance the capacity of extension system to popularize them and general striga management however, they are yet to reach all the farmers that most need them.