Saving Labor at the Village Level via Biological Weed Control
David Sands of Montana State University in the U.S. will work with Kenyan women farmers to evaluate the performance of a biological control method for eliminating the parasitic weed Striga (witchweed), which can cause up to 80% loss of maize, millet, and sorghum yield in smallholder African farms. Striga is a problem in 43 African countries, and manual weeding is highly time- and labor-intensive. They have previously developed a virulent fungal strain to inhibit weed growth, and shown that it can be easily transported on toothpicks for safe and effective distribution. Preliminary field-tests in one village showed that this fungus could effectively control Striga, and in some instances double crop yield. Sands will expand this testing phase to women maize farmers in 50 villages and evaluate crop yield, weed reduction, and farmer satisfaction over 12 months.