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The parasitic genus Striga, in the plant family Orobanchaceae, is a primary constraint to food production in sub-Saharan Africa. These plants can devastate yields of maize, sorghum, millet, and increasingly, rice and sugarcane. Striga seeds ‘eavesdrop’ on belowground chemical signals that are released by roots of host plants but intended for communication with beneficial fungi and this triggers the germination of the seed. Upon germination, a specialized feeding structure develops and penetrates host roots to siphon away water, nutrients, and sugars.
Striga hermonthica is the most destructive member of the genus and millions of hectares of crops across Africa are affected. It can parasitize a wide range of crops and high infestations of this species can cause total crop failure. The mechanisms underlying specificity for different hosts remain unknown and investigation of the specimens contained within the herbarium at Kew will help to further understand these relationships.
Data capture from the digitised images of S. hermonthica will help to inform wider analysis of its specialisation to particular host species and enable targeting of specimens for DNA sequencing to further understand the adaptation across its range in Africa. Please help us to enter all the data from these specimens by transcribing their labels to support the work of a team of researchers at Penn State University and allow their information to be available for anyone world-wide! Thank you and happy transcribing!
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Image Geoff Morris
On this map you'll find all the location of transcribed records of the Revealing the witchweed - Striga hermonthica in Africa expedition