Researchers Raise New Hope Against Cassava Diseases

2328 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
A number of disease resistant varieties are being tested in the fields before they can be released to farmers.

Trials being conducted in Uganda and four other African countries are showing good resistance to two deadly Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD).
The trials being undertaken in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda are part of a project that aims to identify disease-resistant cassava varieties suitable for various African sites.
Edward Kanju, a cassava breeder with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) says the prevalence of the two diseases is now linked to the environment that seems to favor the survival of the small flies that cause the two diseases.
The cassava brown streak was in the past confined to low land coastal areas mainly associated with coastal areas.

The disease in Uganda had defied existing research findings that it was limited to low land coastal areas. It is now being reported in places with relatively high altitude.

Of recent, districts in West Nile, Kasese and parts of Lango have reported increased cases of the tuber-rotting cassava disease.
Dr. Eward Kanju says the environment in which cassava is grown varies greatly in soil fertility and altitude. He says one of the possible solutions is to identify the best suitable varieties for specific environments.
Some of the varieties according to Kanju are being tested in the fields in Tanzanian and would be released before end of the year.
He says initial evaluations are showing promising results. The tests indicate that whereas Cassava brown Streak Diseases could be found in up to 70 per cent of fields with old cassava varieties, zero or nearly zero per cent of the fields with the new varieties were diseased.
The next step according to Dr. Kanju is to involve farmers in the selection of varieties that meet their preferred characteristics in terms of agronomic, taste and end-use.
Dr. Chris Omongo, a Ugandan Cassava breeder at National Crop Resources Institute says there was need for Uganda to work with other breeders in the region to find a solution to the Cassava Brown Streak disease.

///Cue In " Farmers who are…

Cue Out…. on the cassava"////

He said unlike the stunting Cassava mosaic disease, the Brown Streak Disease has a more devastating effect because it causes the rotting of the tubers.

The rotten cassava tubers according to Dr. Omongo cannot be eaten even by animals like pigs.

It is estimated that Cassava Mosaic and Brown streak cause yield loses valued at over one million dollars annually.
Dr. Omongo says Uganda for example is yet to recover from the effects caused by the mosaic disease.

///Cue In " We are now…

Cue Out …… cassava mosaic disease"////

He says finding a solution to the two diseases will be big relive to this crop that was in the past referred to as a survivor crop.