Cassava - Feeding People Today and Tomorrow

Published: 14 June 2012

<strong>Cassava:</strong> Any of several American plants (genus <em>Manihot</em>, especially <em>M. esculenta</em>) of the spurge family grown in the tropics for their edible tuberous roots which yield a nutritious starch. <strong>THE CASSAVA</strong> feeds 500 million people in the developing world. With lots of starch, calcium, phosphorous, protein and Vitamin C, it doesn’t need much rain, rich soil or fertilizer to grow. <strong>BUT</strong> like other important crops, cassava yields are threatened by the uncertainties of climate change and disease such as white fly infestation (seen on this African cassava), or Cassava Mosaic Diseases. <strong>SCIENTISTS</strong>  at the IAEA and the University of Ghana’s School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (like Dr. Kenneth Danso) have been using nuclear techniques to boost yields, help plants resist disease, and produce more starch. <strong>THE SCIENTISTS</strong> use radiation to speed up the natural process of mutation that plants undergo anyway. Those mutations would have needed thousands of years, using just the sun’s radiation and natural DNA replication errors. <strong>CASSAVA</strong> plantlets developed using radiation have different traits. Researchers are constantly testing and screening plants in the field to see what, if any, changes they have undergone. <strong>THEY MIGHT</strong> have traits like the ones Dr. Godwin Amenorpe is developing, which are tolerant to Cassava Mosaic Diseases. They might have very high starch content or be more nutritious. You never know. <strong>NEW</strong>  cassava varieties developed during these projects haven’t been released yet. But when they are, they will benefit farmers and consumers not just in Africa, but across the world. <strong>THIS</strong>  production was made possible by the IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation.<br /><br />

Special thanks to the staff of the University of Ghana's School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences, whose work on mutation plant breeding is partially funded by the IAEA.