Posts Tagged ‘striga’

Mar22

Fighting Striga

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By Paul Van Mele

Paul Van Mele is the Director of Agro-Insight, a Belgian enterprise that merges expertise from science, communication, and arts to support sustainable agriculture and equitable trade.

‘Fighting Striga’ may not be a Hollywood – or even Nollywood – blockbuster but it is set to grab the attention of farmers throughout Africa.

A listing of the available programs offered. (Image credit: Agro-Insight)

Scientists have invested heavily over the past 40 years to fight one of the world’s most troublesome weeds, Striga. This parasitic weed seriously damages maize, sorghum, millet, rice, and fonio. While developing Striga-resistant varieties is a key area of research, insights into how soil fertility management and other options can help to reduce Striga infestation proved hard to communicate effectively with farmers.

In 2006, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) embarked on farmer field schools and came up with practical integrated Striga and soil fertility management practices for pearl millet and sorghum. A scarcity of skilled trainers, however, made it hard to maintain quality while scaling up.

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Aug30

Celosia: Nature’s Prettiest Vegetable

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By Amanda Stone

You may know it as that pretty ornamental flower in your garden, but did you know that Celosia could also be a delicious snack? This beautiful plant with flame-like flowers is actually a common and important food in parts of tropical Africa, its original home.

Photo Credit: J.M. Garg

Because of its flavor and nutritional value, Celosia is widely consumed in several parts of Africa. It is an especially important food in Nigeria, Benin and Congo because of its affinity for hot and humid climates, and it is also commonly eaten in Indonesia and India. The leaves, young stems, and flowers a can be made into soups and stews, served as a nutty-flavored side dish with meat or fish or with a cereal-based main course such as maize porridge. Celosia has a pleasant, mild flavor, and lacks the bitterness of other leafy vegetables.

Celosia grow easily, require little care, and often reseed themselves making them high yielding, cheap and simple to grow. Having proven widely tolerant to both tropical and dry conditions and usually unaffected by pests, diseases, or soil type, this crop is among the most flexible greens for harsh growing conditions.

In addition to their nutritional and aesthetic value, Celosia may also help repress striga, a parasitic weed which devastates other crops such as sorghum, millet and maize. Though the research on this trait is still far from clear, farmers call it “striga chaser”.

With the potential to increase food security, Celosia is valuable in more ways than one. When cultivated near homes, the colorful flowers will brighten villages and local cooks can also pluck off some leaves each day to add to dinner or for a snack.

Amanda Stone is Nourishing the Planet’s Communications Assistant.