A microbial bioherbicide for Striga hermonthica control: production, development, and effectiveness of a seed coating agent

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Witchweed (Striga hermonthica), also called striga, is a parasitic weed that causes high yield losses in maize on more than 200 000 ha in Kenya alone. A new commercial, biological herbicide developed in Kenya is able to control striga effectively. The product was approved for use by the Pest Control Products Board in Kenya in September, 2021. It is self-produced in villages using a secondary inoculum provided by a commercial company. The formulated product has some disadvantages, which are a complicated production process, a very short shelf life and high application rate. Additionally, the product has to be applied manually and therefore can only be used in manual production, leaving out the opportunity for farmers using mechanization. For this reason, efforts have been made to formulate the active ingredient Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. strigae strain DSM 33471, as a powder and to use it as a seed coating agent. This article deals with the production of the Fusarium spore powder, its properties, its application to the seed, and its herbicidal effect demonstrated in the first two field trials. The F. oxysporum strain was originally isolated from a wilting striga plant in Kenya. The strain was virulence enhanced to over produce the amino acids leucine, methionine and tyrosine. These amino acids are responsible for a second mode of action apart from the wilting causing effect of the fungus on striga. Whereas leucine and tyrosine have a herbicidal effect, ethylene from methionine triggers the germination of striga seeds in the soil. Additionally, the strain has been improved to be resistant to the fungicide captan, which is commonly used to treat maize seed in Kenya. Seed coating tests conducted on 25 striga-infested small holder farms spread out in six counties of western Kenya reported yield increases of up to 88%. A second trial carried out by the Kenyan Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization showed a 93% reduction of emerged striga plants. © 2023 Society of Chemical Industry.



striga hermonthica, fusarium oxysporum, maize, biological herbicide, seed coating


Lüth, P., Nzioki, H.S., Sands Baker, C. and Sands, D.C. (2023), A microbial bioherbicide for Striga hermonthica control: production, development, and effectiveness of a seed coating agent. Pest Manag Sci. https://doi.org/10.1002/ps.7522
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