In Sub-Saharan Africa, the parasitic weed Striga—known as Kichawi or "witchweed"—causes $9 billion in harvest damage every year. The Toothpick Project’s bioherbicide technology, a virulence-enhanced Fusarium fungus first developed at Montana State University, kills Striga effectively. In more than 500 proof-of-concept field trials, “Foxy” increased crop yield by 42-56 percent (#1).
Farmers put the technology into action. Using former wooden toothpicks embedded with selected Foxy strains, they apply a fresh, safe, effective, and affordable inoculum on their farms. We are now galvanizing this innovative bioherbicide technology through a distribution system that stretches from lab to field.
Advancement depends on increasing the number of experts in the field. Through a highly trained network of African biocontrol scientists, we will transfer the technology to 16 Striga-diseased countries. Using our Kenyan pilot model, we will scale up to reach at least one million farmers by 2025.
In addition, we will utilize local producers and customize inoculum production at the village level to fit proven rural distribution models. The final objective is increasing crop yield.
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After a dozen years of research and testing, and a year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in February 2021 the biological herbicide Kichawi Kill™ was approved for commercial use against Striga by the Kenya Pest Control Product Board. The fungus-based product now can be made available to farmers in western Kenya. In July 2021, the Toothpick Company was also recognized by the United Nations as one of the 50 Best Small Businesses in the world, in acknowledgment of how the business contributes to healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food and of the strength of their vision for the future.