Vampireweed threatens rice production in Africa. What do we know about it?

Vampireweed threatens rice production in Africa. What do we know about it?
26 April 2024

**Unveiling the Impact of Rice Vampireweed on African Agriculture**

A recent report published in Crop Protection sheds light on the substantial economic losses inflicted by Rice Vampireweed (Rhamphicarpa fistulosa) on African agriculture. Researchers Jonne Rodenburg and Lammert Bastiaans conducted a comprehensive review of literature since 2014 to provide updated insights into this parasitic weed, aiming to inform the crop protection research community and extension services.

R. fistulosa, a facultative, parasitic weed, has spread across at least 35 countries in Africa, primarily infesting rainfed lowland rice areas. The parasite's impact extends to approximately 225,000 hectares, affecting around 140,000 farm households. Notably, the economic toll of this weed amounts to a staggering $82 million annually.

Among the worst-hit countries are Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Togo, with Nigeria bearing the brunt of production losses, followed by Mali, Guinea, Tanzania, and Madagascar. Projections indicate a concerning annual increase in both infestation area and economic impact.

While the reported figures pertain specifically to rice, R. fistulosa also poses a threat to sorghum and maize, potentially exacerbating the total economic losses. Despite its prevalence, current control methods do not include fertilizers. However, studies suggest that early sowing and the utilization of resistant rice cultivars, such as NERICA-L-40 and -31, offer promising strategies for managing this parasitic weed.

NERICA varieties, a successful hybrid of Asian and African rice species, have demonstrated resilience to R. fistulosa infestations, offering hope for sustainable agriculture in affected regions. This research underscores the urgency of addressing parasitic weeds as significant constraints to cereal production systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

The study serves as a clarion call for concerted efforts in research, policy, and agricultural practices to mitigate the devastating impact of Rice Vampireweed and similar threats to food security in Africa.

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