To ease your site search, article categories are at bottom of page.

June 13, 2010

Cassava in East Africa under attack by brown streak disease

About eight hundred million people in Africa, Asia and South America eat cassava. The plant is a major source of food energy and a major food security crop. It can survive in poor soil and without much water. Also, the root can stay in the ground for as long as three years, so it can be harvested as needed.

But in East Africa the plant is under attack. Cassava brown streak disease is a more destructive form of cassava mosaic. The mosaic has been active in East Africa for about one hundred years. It limits plant growth. But brown streak can destroy a crop. The virus was identified in Uganda in two thousand four and has spread fast in areas extending from Lake Victoria.

So far, brown streak has not jumped to Nigeria, the world's largest producer of cassava. But it threatens more than thirty million tons a year of production in East Africa. In some areas of Uganda, rates of brown streak reached more than eighty-five percent in two thousand five and two thousand eight.

Claude Fauquet is a scientist at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Saint Louis, Missouri. He says a few varieties of cassava can resist brown streak, but these are not the kinds Africans like. He is working to develop disease-resistant plants, but he says it will probably take five years.

Loss of cassava crops could lead to hunger. And hunger can lead to migration and conflict. About fifty million dollars is coming from the Gates Foundation, the Monsanto Fund and the United States Agency for International Development. But Claude Fauquet says much more is needed to fight the disease.

Brown streak can be hard to identify in the field. Irregular yellow spots may appear on lower leaves. But farmers sometimes do not find the disease until they cut open a cassava. If there is only a small amount of rot, the dead material can be cut away. But if the disease has progressed, the whole root is ruined.

Scientists partly blame whiteflies for spreading the disease from plant to plant. Brown streak also spreads if farmers sell or give away cuttings of infected plants.

Cassava has many food uses but the plant is not safe to eat unless it is specially prepared. It must be processed through methods like boiling, grinding or fermenting. A substance that can produce deadly levels of cyanide when eaten must be removed.



VOA

Article Categories

AGRA agribusiness agrochemicals agroforestry aid Algeria aloe vera Angola aquaculture banana barley beans beef bees Benin biodiesel biodiversity biof biofuel biosafety biotechnology Botswana Brazil Burkina Faso Burundi CAADP Cameroon capacity building cashew cassava cattle Central African Republic cereals certification CGIAR Chad China CIMMYT climate change cocoa coffee COMESA commercial farming Congo Republic conservation agriculture cotton cow pea dairy desertification development disease diversification DRCongo drought ECOWAS Egypt Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia EU EUREPGAP events/meetings exports fa fair trade FAO fertilizer finance fisheries floods flowers food security fruit Gabon Gambia gender issues Ghana GM crops grain green revolution groundnuts Guinea Bissau Guinea Conakry HIV/AIDS honey hoodia horticulture ICIPE ICRAF ICRISAT IFAD IITA imports India infrastructure innovation inputs investment irrigation Ivory Coast jatropha kenaf keny Kenya khat land deals land management land reform Lesotho Liberia Libya livestock macadamia Madagascar maize Malawi Mali mango marijuana markets Mauritania Mauritius mechanization millet Morocco Mozambique mushroom Namibia NEPAD Niger Nigeria organic agriculture palm oil pastoralism pea pest control pesticides pineapple plantain policy issues potato poultry processing productivity Project pyrethrum rai rain reforestation research rice rivers rubber Rwanda SADC Sao Tome and Principe seed seeds Senegal sesame Seychelles shea butter Sierra Leone sisal soil erosion soil fertility Somalia sorghum South Africa South Sudan Southern Africa spices standards subsidies Sudan sugar sugar cane sustainable farming Swaziland sweet potato Tanzania tariffs tea tef tobacco Togo tomato trade training Tunisia Uganda UNCTAD urban farming value addition value-addition vanilla vegetables water management weeds West Africa wheat World Bank WTO yam Zambia Zanzibar zero tillage Zimbabwe

  © 2007 Africa News Network design by Ourblogtemplates.com

Back to TOP