Uganda’s struggle with Striga… or is it Rhamphicarpa??

Last week we discovered the following YouTube message:

“A parasitic weed has invaded and destroyed over 50 acres of Rice Plantations in Iganga Distinct leaving many farmers counting losses. The weeds identified as Striga have caused massive damage in a space of just two weeks in Buyanga Sub-county": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCxpFNQwVjc

Striga_Management

This video, produced for the Ugandan national television station NTV, shows rice farmers in Iganga District in Uganda struggling with an invasive parasitic weed destroying their rice crops. While the reporters call the weed ‘Striga’ (see above photo of Striga asiatica with red flowers; other species, like Striga hermonthica, have pink/purple flowers) it actually concerns ‘Rhamphicarpa' (below photo with white flowers). They are both parasitic weeds to rice and able to diminish grain yields, but they are usually found in different rice growing environments. 

IMG_5666 (Large)

Striga is found in rain-fed upland rice and Rhamphicarpa is found in the rain-fed lowlands, under wetter soil conditions. Rhamphicarpa is a relatively new, but rapidly upcoming weed species, whereas Striga is much better known to agricultural professionals. Therefore Rhamphicarpa is often wrongly referred to by farmers and extension as ‘Striga’.

Rhamphicarpa vs Striga

The video underpins this. It shows the existence of a great deal of confusion, misunderstanding and ignorance among farmers and extension when it comes to Rhamphicarpa. As a result, rice farmers generally lack the knowledge and means to effectively address Rhamphicarpa infestations while extension services are often not aware of the actual extent and nature of the problem. Extension is therefore unable to backstop farmers with adequate solutions. In our recent research project PARASITE (www.parasite-project.org), we focussed our efforts on Rhamphicarpa. We worked on elucidating the biology and ecology of this parasitic weed and observed important differences with Striga. Most strikingly, we identified that these differences have important implications for designing effective control options. In this process, we also involved farmers, extension and other stakeholders to create an enabling environment for developing feasible, locally adaptable and economically acceptable control strategies.

For more information, please contact the project coordinators Lammert Bastiaans, of Wageningen University (lammert.bastiaans@wur.nl), and Jonne Rodenburg, of the Africa Rice Center (j.rodenburg@cgiar.org).