Taking the lead toward witchweed control

19 July, 2018

‚ÄčThe first specific inhibitor for an uncontrollable plant pest, the witchweed Striga hermonthica, has been discovered through collaboration between two groups at KAUST, led by plant biochemist Salim Al-Babili and structural biologist Stefan Arold.

Witchweed is a parasitic plant that attaches to the roots of cereal plants, stealing their water and nutrients. It affects more than 60 percent of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, and is spreading across other areas, including Asia, Southeast Europe and Saudi Arabia. Commercial losses for sub-Saharan Africa alone exceed 7 billion US dollars.

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Image: Umar Hameed (front) and Imran Haider work on protein purification in the lab.