The African whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, on cassava leaves
The African whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, on cassava leaves.
Photo: IITA


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As part of efforts to control the spread of the two viral diseases attacking cassava in Africa, cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), scientists have announced a breakthrough whole genome sequencing of Bemisia tabaci, the African whitefly that is spreading the diseases.

To develop the genome map of the African whitefly, an international research team drawn from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan/Nigeria, with partners at Cornell University, Ithaca/USA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), collected cassava whiteflies from a single field in Chato, north-western Tanzania, a region characterised by a super-abundance of whiteflies on cassava and severe CMD and CBSD epidemics. These were confirmed as sub-Saharan Africa-East and Central Africa (SSA-ECA) using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-genotyping.

The Bemisia tabaci, a global pest and vector of damaging plant viruses in agriculturally important crops, is a complex species comprising many morphologically indistinguishable species. Cassava B. tabaci, confined to sub-Saharan Africa, specialise on cassava, and are rarely found on other host plants.

Two other important B. tabaci species, Middle East-Minor Asia 1 (MEAM1) and Mediterranean genetic group (MED), colonise many host plants and have spread as invasive populations throughout the tropical regions of the world.

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