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Cassava

Overview

Crop Cassava Manihot Center of origin: SAM-Tro

Cassava is currently the sixth most produced crop in terms of global production, and is the staple for millions of people in the poorest and most marginal regions of the world.

Cassava is a perennial woody shrub with an edible root, which grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is also called yuca, manioc, and mandioca.  It is very hardy and has the ability to grow on land where drought is frequent and in soils low in nutrients, where cereals and other crops do not grow well. As cassava roots can be stored in the ground for up to 24 months, and for some varieties up to 36 months, harvest may be delayed until needed, or until processing or other conditions are favorable.

Cassava’s high starch content provides a valuable source of carbohydrates, much higher than those of maize or rice. In Africa, people also eat the leaves of the cassava as a green vegetable, which provide a cheap source of protein and vitamins A and B. Cassava as a processed starch is not particularly nutritious, and its widespread use is due more to its reliability in harsh environments than its actual nutritional quality.

The crop contains some serious toxins (cyanogenic glycosides). Some forms with very low levels of this toxin have evolved locally, but in general processing is needed to remove the poisons prior to eating. The large roots are peeled and then ground into flour, which is then soaked in water, squeezed dry several times, and toasted. Breeding for lower toxicity levels is certainly a goal of plant breeders, however the more poisonous forms are often preferred by many farming communities, as the toxins prevent grazing by animals.

Roots are processed into a wide variety of granules, pastes, flours, or consumed freshly boiled or raw. The flour has recently begun to be used in partial substitution for wheat flour. In Southeast Asia and Latin America, aside from direct human consumption, cassava is used commercially for the production of animal feed, and cassava starch is used as a binding agent in the production of paper and textiles, and as monosodium glutamate, an important flavoring agent in Asian cooking.

According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA): “Pests and diseases, together with poor cultural practices, combine to cause yield losses that may be as high as 50% in Africa.” As it is primarily a staple of the poor, cassava did not receive much attention from modern breeding until quite recently.

Conserving forever in genebanks

Filter by genebanks

CIAT

Number of varieties available to the public
18.2% 1,211
Data available in genesys
100% 6,643

IITA

Number of varieties available to the public
61.5% 1,685
Data available in genesys
100% 2,740

Breakdown of genebanks conserving Cassava

  • CIAT 6,643 / 70.8%
  • IITA 2,740 / 29.2%

The Crop Trust has supported 11 projects for Cassava

  1. Belgium: With support from the Crop Trust the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven) worked with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Potato Center (CIP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to develop protocols for the cryopreservation of cassava. The protocols will allow the routine, large-scale application of cryopreservation for long-term conservation of these crop collections.
  2. Colombia: The Crop Trust supported the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in its work with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven), Belgium to develop a protocol for the cryopreservation of cassava. The protocol will allow the routine, large-scale application of cryopreservation for long-term conservation of cassava.
  3. Colombia: CIAT receives an in-perpetuity grant from the Crop Trust for the long-term conservation of the global bean and cassava collections it holds on behalf of the international community.
  4. Costa Rica: Costa Rica hosts the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE), which received support from the Crop Trust to regenerate and characterize 185 cassava accessions from the international collection it manages. 40 accessions are safety duplicated in International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
  5. Guyana: The Crop Trust supported the National Agricultural Research Institute to regenerate and characterize83 cassava accessions with the objective of rescuing threatened diversity and enhancing use of the crop.
  6. Malawi: The Crop Trust supported the Department of Agriculture, which collaborated with the University of the Free State in South Africa, and the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique, to genotype and evaluate cassava collections in Malawi and Mozambique for starch characteristics.
  7. Malaysia: The Crop Trust supported the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) to regenerate and characterize 97 cassava accessions, with the objective of rescuing threatened diversity and enhancing use of the crops. 15 accessions are safety duplicated in the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
  8. Mozambique: The Crop Trust supported the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique, which collaborated with University of the Free State in South Africa and the Department of Agriculture, Malawi to genotype and evaluate cassava collections in Malawi and Mozambique for starch characteristics.
  9. Nigeria: The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) receives an in-perpetuity grant from the Crop Trust for the long-term conservation of the global collections of cassava and yam it holds on behalf of the international community.
  10. Peru: The Crop Trust provided support for the Instituto Nacional de Innovación Agraria (INIA) to regenerate, characterize and safety duplicate 1560 cassava accessions with the objective of rescuing threatened diversity and enhancing use of the crops. 504 accessions are safety duplicated in International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
  11. South Africa: The Crop Trust supported the University of the Free State, which is collaborating with the Department of Agriculture, Malawi and the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique to genotype and evaluate cassava collections in Malawi and Mozambique for starch characteristics.