Cassava research

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for more research on the tropical root crop cassava to help poor countries cope with rising food and oil prices. Cassava is a staple food for millions of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia, providing as much as a third of daily calories.

African cassava mosaic virus. Photo by IITA

Members of the Global Cassava Partnership for Genetic Improvement (GCP21) such as IITA reviewed the current state of cassava production worldwide and future prospects at a conference held in Belgium in July. Current average cassava yields are barely 20 percent of those obtained under optimum conditions. Despite growing demand and its production potential, the crop is grown mainly in areas that have little or no access to improved varieties, fertilizer and other production inputs, by small-scale farmers with no access to marketing channels and agroprocessing industries.

To help develop the crop’s potential in addressing the global food and energy crisis, GCP21 will launch new projects such as establishing a cassava chain delivery system to channel technical advances to poor farmers, improving soil fertility, enhancing basic scientific knowledge of the crop, including genomics, and training the next generation of cassava researchers in developing countries.

Detailed information about the Ghent meeting also on the AGRA website