TORONTO, Sept. 10 (UPI) — Scientists say they’ve found weapons to combat a parasite that annually lays waste to thousand of acres of crops throughout Africa, Asia and Australia.
Researchers from the University of Toronto say the parasitic plant called Striga, also known as witchweed, is one of the largest challenges to food security in Africa, a university release says.
When crops are planted and begin to grow, their roots release a hormone called strigolactone. Stria seeds in the soil use the hormone as a cue to germinate and infect the crop. Once connected to the crop plants, the parasite kills them by sucking out its nutrients.
“In sub-Saharan Africa alone, Striga has infected up to two-thirds of the arable land,” university cell and systems biologist Peter McCourt says.
The scientists conducted research and screened 10,000 compounds to identify genes and substances that regulate strigolactone levels in plants.
“With chemicals and genes in hand that influence strigolactone production in plants, we should be able to manipulate the level of this compound by chemical application or plant breeding which would break the Striga-crop interaction” McCourt said.
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