CIAT helps African cassava “Bridegroom” find perfect match

3 February, 2011 by (comments)

A new disease-tolerant cassava variety just released in Nigeria could help to boost food production in the country, and highlights the importance of conserving cassava germplasm from Latin America for scientific research in Africa.

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The new crop combines two forms of resistance to the devastating cassava mosaic disease(CMD): one found in the so-called “Bridegroom” cassava variety, a Nigerian landrace, and the other from a wild relative of the South American root crop.

Cassava is the world’s 2nd most important source of carbohydrate, and is consumed by hundreds of  millions of people every day as a vital staple food. But while CMD devastates cassava crops across Africa and parts of India, is not found in South America.

CIAT imported cassava with natural resistance from Nigeria and crossed it with parental lines from Latin America, conserved in CIAT’s genebank at its headquarters in Colombia. CIAT scientists identified molecular markers linked to CMD resistance, enabling them to select for CMD resistance without the disease itself being present.

After several years of subsequent trials in Nigeria, CMD –resistant cassava variety CR41-10 was officially released in December 2010, and is being multiplied and distributed by the Nigerian Root and Tuber Expansion Program (RTEP), as part of an IFAD-funded project.

The new variety also has a number of additional desirable traits, including high yield potential and roots that are very good for producing gari – a coarse, toasted flour, which is the primary use for cassava in Nigeria.

The release follows a decade of collaboration in cassava research involving CIAT, its CGIAR sister-center the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Nigeria’s National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), with initial funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and later the Generation Challenge Program,  initiated by former CIAT cassava geneticist, Martin Fregene.

“This is proof that the excellent cassava germplasm developed at CIAT can directly add value to cassava in Africa,” said Chiedoze Egesi, of NCRCI.  “We hope many new varieties will follow in its footsteps.”

CIAT cassava breeder Hernan Ceballos was also delighted by the release. “It’s a momentous occasion,” he said. ”This variety is the first example of a product involving biotechnology that directly reaches cassava farmers. “

“Over the years there has been a huge amount of work to identifiy molecular markers for improving food crops – now we’re showing that this work can be applied to improve food production in developing countries where it is most needed.”

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Filed Under: Cassava @en, Crop diversity, Crops @en