The IITA study is a milestone in the efforts to revive cassava production in East, Central, and Southern Africa where the cassava brown streak and cassava mosaic diseases are still a major problem.
Photo: © IITA

29.09.2017

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Cassava production in Africa is compromised by cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) and cassava mosaic disease (CMD). Scientists have now identified molecular markers linked to resistance against these diseases.

Why are the two cassava varieties - Namikonga and Albert - grown by farmers in Tanzania, able to withstand the devastating Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), respectively, while other varieties cannot? A team of scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have been studying their DNA and have successfully identified the genetic markers linked to their resistance to each of the viral diseases. The markers can be used to speed up the often long and expensive conventional breeding of cassava varieties with dual resistance to the diseases.

Namikonga and Albert, which are genetically related, have been grown by farmers in areas that are hotspots for the two viral diseases for many decades and have shown high resistance despite being subjected to the diseases over a long period. Namikonga is tolerant to CBSD but highly susceptible to CMD while in contrast, Albert is highly susceptible to CBSD but resistant to CMD.

The international team, drawing scientists from Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States of America, crossed the two Tanzanian varieties and studied a large population of the progeny over two seasons in two disease hotspot areas in the country.

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