The Witch Weed, Striga, has attacked Busia and six other districts in Eastern Uganda threatening the region’s production of cereals like millet and grains like maize, which are the main staple foods in the affected districts.
Other affected districts include Budaka, Butaleja, Namayingo, Tororo, Pallisa and Kibuku.
According to Mr Tom Hakoma, a farmer in Mbehenyi Parish in Masaba Sub County in Busia district, also under threat is the production of millet which has for the last five years been a major cash crop given that it is the main ingredient in the production of one of Nile Breweries Limited’ brands, Eagle Lager.
Busia District Agriculture Officer, Mr Fred Wakapisi, said that the weed which is characterized by purple rosy flowers has ravaged cereal gardens in all the 16 Sub Counties of Busia.
The parasitic plant uses its roots to deny crops especially sorghum, millet and maize access to nutrients, causing them to become stunted, which adversely affects yields.
Mr Wakapisi said the weed cannot be eradicated by local methods and seeds can stay in the ground for up to 12 years while waiting for the right conditions to germinate.
He called for government intervention saying that the districts cannot handle the magnitude of the problem.
“The Weed is causing over fifty percent production loss to the farmers. If it is not checked, we might experience a total reduction in the production of cereals in about 6 other district neighbouring Busia” he said.
Mr Wakapisi is however attributed the problem to poor farming methods. He said that most farmers do not carry out crop rotation. This he said, leads to decline in soil fertility levels, which in turn enables the weed to thrive given that low soil fertility levels favor it.