Long-term management of the parasitic weed Striga hermonthica : strategy evaluation with a population model

P.R. Westerman, A. van Ast, T.J. Stomph, W. van der Werf

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17 Citations (Scopus)


To increase sorghum yields in areas in Africa that are heavily infested with the root parasite Striga hermonthica, crop varieties are being bred whose roots emit fewer exudates that stimulate S. hermonthica seeds to germinate. Because S. hermonthica has a persistent seedbank, it is important to anticipate the long-term effects of such breeding efforts on the seedbank dynamics. This study reports the results of analyses conducted with a population model for S. hermonthica based on existing and earlier published models and data. The essential innovation is an explicit modelling of density-dependent feedback, which was included at different points in the life cycle. Sensitivity analyses showed that density-dependence reduced the impact on the equilibrium seedbank density of life cycle parameters at stages preceding the density-dependent process. The implication is that intervention early in the parasite life cycle through, for instance, breeding for low exudate emission of the cereal host, carries the risks of maintaining or increasing S. hermonthica seedbanks, and selection for S. hermonthica populations responsive to the new varieties. Only crop varieties with very low production of germination-stimulant will be effective in the long run. The best breeding strategy is to select for crop varieties that inhibit S. hermonthica development or growth at stages later in the life cycle or that affect the parasite at multiple stages simultaneously. The most effective management strategy is to use control measures that cause a reduction in seed production, viability of newly produced seed, or seed survival in the soil, or to use a combination of measures that affect the parasites at multiple stages. Despite considerable knowledge gaps regarding the basic demography of S. hermonthica, the model proved useful in identifying points in the S. hermonthica life cycle that are of particular interest for designing intervention strategies. In-depth studies on the demography of S. hermonthica and on the location(s) of density-dependence in the parasite's life cycle are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-227
JournalCrop Protection
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • seed-germination
  • crop-rotation
  • sorghum
  • scrophulariaceae
  • infestation
  • dynamics
  • mali

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