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Weeds in sorghum

A variety of weeds are associated with sorghum crop.
The type of weeds vary from place to place depending on soil type, season and environment where sorghum is grown.
These weeds comprise of diverse plant species of annual grasses and seasonal broad leaved weeds.

 Weed problems in grain sorghum include:

  • perennial grasses such as Johnson grass and
  • Bermuda grass,annual grasses such as Crabgrass and
  • Goose grass,and many broadleaf weeds.

The list of major weeds that grow in ground crop are shown with their images in the following screens :

Common broad-leaf weeds:

  Botanical Name Common Name
Abutilon indicum Indian mallow
Alyicarpus sp. One-leaf clover
Argemone mexicana Mexican poppy
Celosia argentina White cock's comb
Borreria articularis Button plant
Gynondropis(Cleome) supp. Wild spider flower
Digeria arvensis Kundra
Corchorus olitorius Jew's mallow
Portuala spp. Common purslane
Veronica cinerea Little iron weed
Leucas aspera Drona pushpi
Xanthium strumarium Coklebur
Anagallis arvensis Scarlet Pimpernel
Bidense pilosa Spanish needle
Eclipta spp. False daisy
Ipomea spp. Morning glory
Tridax procumbence Tridax daisy, Wild daisy
Euphorbia spp.  Spurge
Aramanthus spp. Pigweed
Mollugo verticillata Carpet-weed

Common Grass (monocot) Weeds:

Botanical Name Common Name
Chloris spp. Finger grass
Digetaria sanguinalis Crabgrass
Dactyloctenium aegyptium Crowfootgrass
Echinocloa spp. Barnyard grass
Commelina spp. Benghal dayflower
Paspalum distichum Water couch
Eleusine indica Goose grass
Eragrostis spp. Love grass
Setaria spp. Foxtail
Cynodon dactylon Bermuda grass

Common Sedges:

Botanical Name Common Name
Cyperus rotundus Purple nut sedge
Cyperus esculentus Yellow nut sedge
Cyperus defformis Nut sedge
Cyperus compressus Nut sedge

 Striga is a very important weed in sorghum cultivation.
Sorghum affected by Striga

         Sorghum affected by Striga

 Unlike other weeds, which compete for water and nutrients Striga, as a root parasite, literally sucks the life out of sorghum plants. In doing so, growth is stunted and yields are greatly reduced.




Striga infested sorghum field

     Striga infested sorghum field 

Striga has been given the common name of "witchweed" because of attaching to the roots and robbing the host of water and nutrients.




There are different species of Striga:

type of striga

The Striga found in India is most often has white flowers. But, Striga plants with yellow, pink or purple flowers are also common.

Pink flowered Striga        Mauve flowered Striga        Red flowered Striga
   Pink flowered Striga             Mauve flowered Striga              Red flowered Striga

small striga seeds
 Small Striga seedscompared to sorghum and maize  

Depending upon the extent of infestation, 30-60% of reduction in grain yield can occur.Striga infestation is most severe in low moisture and low fertility soils. Thousands of very  small seeds are produced by a single plant of Striga. These seeds can remain dormant but viable for many years.


striga plants     


Striga plants emerge from the soil adjacent to sorghum plants and produce many upright green stems with pink to white flowers.




Red striga


Flowering can begin within 2 weeks and seeds begin to mature 2-4 weeks later. The seed capsules may contain 400-500 seeds and a single plant may produce 20,000 seeds.Mature seeds are dispersed by wind, rainwater, cultivation, soil on tools, or even grazing and manure fertilization.



                                           Striga Life-Cycle:

life cycle of striga

Control measures:
Physical control: Hand pulling at too early stage may break the shoot and reduce the rapid growth.
Sparse infestation should be hand pulled shortly before flowering to prevent build up of seed.
Such hand pulling should continue through to harvest and beyond so long as flowering is occurring.
 Cultural control: It has been noted that sorghum plant shading can restrict Striga growth when generous soil fertilizer is applied.In areas of high rainfall, factors such as high plant populations, recommended fertility levels, and good weed control encourage lush crop growth and shading in spite of Striga parasitism. This is not feasible in moisture stressed rainfed areas.Crop rotation should be practiced with trap crops which stimulate Striga seeds to germinate without themselves being parasitized.Crops claimed to be effective include: cotton, sunflower, groundnut, castor, dolichos bean, and linseed.
Unfortunately once a severe infestation has developed, it may take many years to reduce Striga population in the field to non-damaging level.

Cultural control: Growing of available resistant varieties help to reduce Striga build up in the field as Striga    resistance is mainly associated with low yield and poor grain quality of the resistant variety.
SAR 34 a Striga resistant variety

Chemical control:

As Striga is a broadleaf plant, pre-plant herbicides such as Atrazine, Goal, and Flex show some effect though not efficient enough to be justified.Post-emergence use of 2,4-D is effective when sprayed on the Striga leaves.Though low in cost, sorghum is vulnerable to stalk twisting and lodging if 2,4-D is sprayed into the leaf whorl.Spraying should only be done trained labor and cautioned to the hazards.
In summary, control of Striga infestation is difficult and requires an integrated approach.Non-host crops must be rotated (for two years in heavily infested fields) with resistant  sorghum varieties.

Following good practices will help reducing striga effect in sorghum crop:

  1. plant populations and fertility adjusted for soil moisture availability to maximize shading,
  2. weeding and Striga control through hand pulling and perhaps limited 2,4-D spraying, and finally
  3. care not to spread seeds of Striga though fodder, manure or contaminated soil on tillage tools.


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