Opportunity For Investors? Herbicide-Coated Seeds

Opportunity For Investors? Herbicide-Coated Seeds

A striga weed infestation that can claim 70-100 percent of corn harvests has affected 3.5 million acres of the crop in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, according to a report in IPPmedia.

Also known as witches’ weed, striga weed has bright pink or red flowers depending on the species, and is a parasite that also infests sorghum, millet and sugarcane fields.

Once corn is infested with the weed, experts say crop loss ranges from 70 to 100 percent of the harvest. “This (corn) variety is not resistant to the striga weed,” said Gospel Omaya, seed system manager at the African Agriculture Technology Foundation, which facilitates public-private partnerships.

One of the most effective herbicides, Imazapyr, kills striga weed, Omaya said. Corn seeds can be coated with Imazapyr before being packaged and this coating makes corn resistant to weeds.

Just one seed company has started producing the resistant seed on a commercial basis in Kenya, and it is unable to meet the demand by smallholder farmers in striga-infested areas, Omanya said.

Low capital base and limited capacity for technology commercialization are some of the challenges facing the East African seed system, he said.

Other seed companies struggle with technical challenges such as seed production and processing that require large financial investments and capacity building.

There’s not enough of the striga-fighting seed on the market, the report said. Also known as IR maize or StrigAwaymaize technology, its absence means adoption of the beneficial IR maize technology has remained particularly slow among the resource-constrained farmers, the report said.

Registration of herbicide is slow; hence no commercialization. The African Agricultural Technology Foundation is facilitating production, availability, stewardship, dissemination, uptake and use of quality IR maize seed to enable effective commercialization and reach to farmers.

Commercialization will give farmers greater opportunities to increase food security, reduce poverty and increase income in disadvantaged communities living in striga-infested areas.

Poor seed combined with climate change is exacerbating an already critical food shortage in Sub Saharan Africa, according to IPPmedia.