African Centre for Crop Improvement

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African Centre for Crop Improvement

“Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa”


Tackling Striga affecting pearl millet in Burkina Faso

Dr Armel Rouamba’s doctoral thesis has broken new ground for plant breeding in his homeland, Burkina Faso. His study focused on breeding pearl millet, a staple food crop in the region, for resistance to S. hermonthica (Striga). This virulent parasitic weed is the main constraint in the focus area, responsible for up to 80% of crop loss by small-scale farmers.

Rouamba grew up in a farming family and did a master’s degree in plant Breeding. While working on a millet project after that, he noticed that although Striga was a major problem for small millet producers, no one had tried to remedy this, because of its complex management.

Dr Armel Rouamba

“I started reading and drawing up protocols for the fight against Striga in pearl millet because I like taking on challenges,” he says, adding that the endeavour is important because it is the first time the Striga problem for millet farmers has been tackled in Burkina Faso. 

“This will contribute to the creation of resistant pearl millet varieties, increasing yields among small producers,” he says. His study aims to improve pearl millet production by developing varieties with Striga-resistance that can compete using a biocontrol agent, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. Strigae.

Rouamba says overall, the study identified S. hermonthica as the most critical pearl millet production constraint in Burkina Faso. It also highlighted significant genetic diversity among genotypes for S. hermonthica resistance, when assessed using economic traits and SNP markers under Striga hotspot areas. Best-performing genotypes were selected as suitable parents for S. hermonthica resistance breeding. The selected genotypes are recommended for production and as donor parents for new population improvement in pearl millet Striga-resistance breeding.

Rouamba says despite having had to leave his wife and child at home for several months when he came to the ACCI for his studies, he is thrilled to have been a student at UKZN. He is currently continuing with the work of improving pearl millet varieties to enhance yield through open-pollinated and hybrid Striga hermonthica-resistant varieties.

He thanks the ACCI and his supervisor, Prof Hussein Shimelis for their support. He also thanks International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Fondation and Dr Drabo Inoussa.

Words: Shelagh McLoughlin

Photo: Supplied

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