Category: News
Date published: March 08, 2024

Innovative program aims to combat Striga weed threat to Sorghum

A groundbreaking initiative named PROMISE (Promoting Root Microbes for Integrated Striga Eradication) is making strides in the battle against the parasitic weed Striga, which poses a significant threat to the staple crop Sorghum. Spearheaded by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) this program aims to harness the power of beneficial soil microbes to protect Sorghum from the devastating effects of Striga infestation. Koppert is one of the global partners in this project. 

Striga, also known as witchweed, has long plagued cereal crops in Africa, particularly Sorghum, a staple crop for many smallholder farmers across the continent. The weed steals vital nutrients and water from the roots of its host plants, leading to reduced yields and, in severe cases, complete crop failure. For farmers already teetering on the edge of poverty, such losses can have immediate and disastrous consequences, exacerbating hunger and economic hardship.

Collaborative effort  

The PROMISE program represents a collaborative effort between various global partners aiming to develop innovative solutions tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers. Initial results have been promising, resulting in an additional $10 million in follow-up funding, propelling the project into its next phase.

Professor Jos Raaijmakers, the project coordinator at NIOO, initiated the collaboration with Koppert approximately two years ago, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive research endeavor. The project, which started on September 1, 2023, consists of a diverse team of 40 individuals from esteemed organizations worldwide, including universities, research institutes, and agricultural companies. This global project team visited Koppert on February 9, during which they visited the Experience Center and attended a presentation by Sjoerd van der Ent, Business Unit Manager Micro at Koppert, about what is involved to get from a microbial isolate to a commercial product.

The goal of PROMISE II 

The core objective of PROMISE II, the second phase of the initiative, is to develop prototype products that offer biological crop protection against Striga while seamlessly integrating with existing farming practices. Irene de Bruijn, leading the Research and Development (R&D) Microbial Profiling team at Koppert, emphasizes the project's potential to significantly improve agricultural practices in sub-Saharan Africa. "We're not just tackling a weed; we're offering a new approach," says de Bruijn. "Through collaboration and innovation, we aim to provide smallholder farmers with effective tools to safeguard their crops and secure their futures."

The collaboration embodies a shared commitment to holistic solutions for agricultural challenges. While specifics of the collaboration are still being finalized, all parties are aligned in their dedication to empowering farmers and fostering sustainable agriculture.

As the PROMISE program continues to gain momentum, hopes are high for a future where Striga is no longer a threat to Sorghum crops, paving the way for increased food security and prosperity in communities across Africa.