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Horizontal resistance: core to a research breakthrough to combat Striga in Africa
The parasltie flowering plants, Striga species, represent the largest biological constraint to cereal and legume crop production in sub-Saharan Africa. Eighty-three percent of Striga worldwide (35 species) occurs in Africa. Among them, Striga hermonthica causes the greatest damage. The IITA's scientists began research on breeding maize for horizontal resistance to Striga in 1982. By 1995 a comprehensive approach to combat Striga on maize had been developed and demonstrated. This included the development of a simple field infestation technique, the discovery of durable resistance genes, genetic studies of resistance genes and the formation of many resistant varieties (hybrids and synthetics) with high grain quality, high grain and stover yields and a combined resistance to major biotic and abiotic stresses. Multilocation testing and subsequent seed multiplication of the resistant varieties was carried out by national programmes in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. Striga-resistant maize varieties show horizontal resistance not only to S. hermonthica, but also to another species, Striga asiatica. Based on the results of a 15 year research, an integrated approach using resistant varieties and cereal-legume intercropping or rotation is recommended as a sustainable and permanent solution to combat Striga in Africa. This horizontal resistance package, with a combined resistance to other biotic stresses, could be applicable not only to Strigaproblems in other crops such as sorghum, millet, rice and cowpea, but also to other parasitic weeds, such as Orobanche species. This paper reviews and discusses why, approximately a century's research work on parasitic weeds, has not led to a major research breakthrough.