Fighting famine with botany

Botanical Congress, Media releases
A family of plant hormones, known as the strigolactones has provided researchers with a new lead in the fight against one of the world’s most devastating plant parasites, the African witchweed or voodoo plant, the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne will be told today.

The strigolactones, which are important to plant root development, also stimulate the growth of the parasite, which taps into the root system.

“African Witchweed can reduce yields of cereal crops to zero, and is considered the major biological constraint to crop production in sub-Saharan Africa,” says researcher Associate Professor Christine Beveridge who leads a team working on strigolactones.

“If we can somehow break the link between witchweed and the hormone, particularly where there is poor nutrient availability, we may be able to control its action.”

Dr Beveridge and her team have developed genetic tools which will allow them to tease out the biochemical pathways by which the strigolactones are constructed and act.

They have already determined that the hormone works by interacting with the growth centres or meristems in plant shoots and roots. By this means, strigolactone shapes plants. And in future it may be used to structure more productive crops.

Read also on how the same hormone controls plant shape.

For further information contact Christine Beveridge,

Congress media:

Niall Byrne, 0417 131 977, or
AJ Epstein on 0433 339 141 or email