mardi 23 juin 2009

"Prix Nobel de l'Agriculture" décerné à Gebisa Ejeta de l'université de Purdue dans l'Indiana

Le 11 juin dernier, Hillary Clinton, secrétaire d'Etat et Kenneth Quinn présidente de la fondation "World food prize fundation" ont annoncé le lauréat du Prix mondial de l'alimentation "World Food Price" pour l'année 2009. L'Université de Purdue est pour la deuxième fois, en trois ans, honorée pour la nomination d'un de ses chercheurs, le professeur d'agronomie Gebisa Ejeta qui se verra décerner le 15 octobre prochain, lors d'une cérémonie qui se tiendra à Des Moines (Iowa) le prix, accompagné d'une prime de 25.000 dollars.

Le "world food prize" est considéré comme le "prix Nobel" dans le domaine de l'agriculture. Gebisa Ejeta a été honoré pour ses recherches relatives à l'amélioration de la production et des caractéristiques de résistance du sorgho. Originaire d'Ethiopie, Ejeta connaît bien les effets dévastateurs de la sécheresse et des plantes parasites sur les cultures de sorgho. Le sorgho est l'une des principales cultures vivrières africaines qui nourrit plus de 500 millions de personnes sur tout le continent. Cet évènement sera marqué par la présence de Bill Gates, le co-fondateur de Microsoft, très engagé dans la lutte contre la famine en Afrique à travers la fondation "Bill and Melinda Gates foundation".

Le sorgho commun (Sorghum bicolor), ou sorgho à sucre, est une plante herbacée annuelle de la famille des Poaceae (Graminées). C'est une plante de 1 à 3 mètres de haut, à tige cylindrique pleine, portant une inflorescence terminale en panicule compacte; celle-ci regroupe des épillets d'une ou deux fleurs bisexuées. Cultivé soit pour ses graines, soit comme fourrage, le sorgho tient le cinquième rang mondial en terme de production, après le maïs, le blé, le riz et l'orge.

Le généticien Gebisa Ejeta a mis au point des variétés de sorgho résistantes à la sécheresse et également à la plante parasite Striga hermonthica. Il a commencé ses recherches en 1980 dans le nord du Soudan avec la mise au point de Hageen Dura-1, le premier plant de sorgho résistant à la sécheresse et permettant d'obtenir des rendements allant jusqu'à 150% du sorgho traditionnel. Aujourd'hui près de 1 million d'hectares de ce plant de sorgho sont cultivés annuellement au Soudan. Ses travaux ont également concerné l'étude du Striga, Striga hermonthica, plante parasite qui provoque de graves dommages sur les plants de sorgho, mil et maïs en Afrique. Cette plante serait responsable de la perte de près de 40% des récoltes de Sorgho. L'importance des pertes de rendement subies par les cultures est liée au mode de vie parasitaire du Striga. Après avoir germé en réponse à des inducteurs de germination libérés par la racine de son hôte, le Striga développe un genre de suçoir, l'haustorium, qui se fixe au niveau de la racine de la plante, la pénètre et établit une connexion entre les vaisseaux conducteurs de sève des deux plantes. Cela permet au parasite de prélever chez son hôte l'eau, les éléments minéraux et les substances organiques nécessaires à son développement. Le Striga altère aussi l'activité photosynthétique de la plante. Le montant des pertes en Afrique est évalué à 7 milliards de dollars US (5,2 milliards d'euros). Arracher le Striga se révèle inefficace, car il parasite les racines de la plante hôte bien avant qu'elle ne germe. Il produit par ailleurs, de nombreuses graines dont la période de dormance dans le sol peut atteindre 20 ans.

La suite : ici

 

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