From: Munyaradzi Makoni, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published October 19, 2012 08:46 AM

African farmers could soon grow virus-resistant cassava

Researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, have successfully developed a strain of virus-resistant cassava, and now hope to train scientists in Africa to develop the technology in laboratories on the continent.

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The study, which demonstrated that researchers can now generate transgenic farmer- and industry-preferred cassava, was published in PLOS One last month (25 September).

Herve Vanderschuren, the study's lead author, and head of the cassava research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, said the research team had developed a new cassava variety that is resistant to cassava mosaic disease and cassava brown streak virus, an infection that makes cassava roots unpalatable.

These two major viral diseases reduce cassava production in large areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, cassava is currently the third most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and maize, and more than 800 million people use cassava as a source of food and income generation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The new strain is drought tolerant and can grow in a range of agro-ecosystems — including less fertile soils — ensuring that when other crops fail, cassava can still be harvested.

Article continues at ENN affiliate, Science and Development Network

Cassava image via Shutterstock

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