The sight of Prof Steven Runo in sorghum fields in Kibos, Alupe or Mbita, all in western Kenya, would be less alluring.
But it is the work in those fields and under the scorching heat of the lake region that saw him win this year’s Royal Society Africa Prize for the best scientific research. (Source Daily Nation)
The Royal Society Africa Prize 2020 is awarded to Dr Steven Runo for elucidating pathways for long distance RNA trafficking between parasitic plants and their hosts and identifying and developing transgenic protocol for characterizing and validating candidate host and parasite genes.
Dr Runo will be awarded a medal and a grant of £15,000 towards his research project at a symposium to be held at a future date. (Source: The Royal Society)
The research is concentrated on sorghum, maize and millet, main food crops around the country, but which are vulnerable to Striga attacks. According to agricultural research, Striga is one of the most lethal weeds.
According to Prof Runo, parasitic plants establish what is called vascular connection with the host plant through structures termed haustoria, which allow acquisition of water and nutrients, often to the detriment of the infected host.
The parasitic plant extracts the nutrients from the host plant, either killing it or rendering it unable to produce crops. That is why when Striga strikes a maize farm, for instance, it will strangle the crop and leave the farmer without any yield. (Source Daily Nation)