Chris Parker talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's New Hot Paper in the field of Agricultural
Article Title: Observations on the current status of
Orobanche and Striga problems worldwide
Authors: Parker, C
Journal: PEST MANAG SCI
Year: Sp. Iss. SI MAY 2009
* 5 Royal York Crescent, Bristol BS8 4JZ, Avon, England.
Why do you think your paper is highly cited?
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of
Parasitic weeds continue to be a major threat to crops in a range of
ecologies, attracting widespread research efforts. Financial support for
this research depends at least partly on evidence for its economic
importance. Yet gathering such evidence itself is costly and fraught with
This paper was commissioned to pull together what scattered statistics
there have been on the subject and is thus the most up-to-date source
available to authors needing to justify their work. It reviews available
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
"The work on both Striga and Orobanche has great social
and economic significance for millions of small-scale
farmers, particularly in Africa and the Middle East."
Parasitic weeds—witchweeds and broomrapes—attach to the roots
of a wide range of tropical and subtropical crops, causing severe,
sometimes complete, crop failure.
This paper demonstrates that, in spite of extensive research, crop losses
continue to occur in the range of many million, if not billion, US dollars
annually, contributing to poverty and malnutrition for millions of farmers,
especially in Africa. The paper provides evidence for the need for
continued funding for research.
How did you become involved in this research, and
were there any problems along the way?
As a weed scientist, I was first familiar with Striga in South
Africa in the 1950s and then became involved in UK-funded research on it in
the UK from the 1960s onwards, gradually becoming specialized in the topic
and thus becoming all too familiar with the difficulties of producing
reliable, reproducible results, especially in the area of crop losses.
I have to say that I had never really intended to write this paper but was
persuaded to do so by Professor Jonathan Gressel of the Weizmann Institute,
Israel, when I planned to attend a workshop on the subject.
My past affiliations have been with the UK Weed Research Organization,
Oxford, from 1967 to 1986 and with the Long Ashton Research Station,
Bristol, from 1986 to 1990. As a long time (20-year) retiree, I was
expecting to be acting as an observer only, in my capacity as senior editor
of the parasitic plants newsletter Haustorium.
Do you foresee any social or political
implications for your research?
The work on both Striga and Orobanche has great social
and economic significance for millions of small-scale farmers, particularly
in Africa and the Middle East.