Tag Archives: Cassava

The Importance and Challenge of rapid multiplication of Vegetative Crops in Africa |

This is a kumara (a kind of sweet potato). Deu...

Kumara (a kind of sweet potato).

Realizing the potential of Africa’s vegetative crops requires new tools for rapid multiplication of healthy and improved planting material 

Bananas, plantains, cassava, potato and sweet-potato, as well as other indigenous African root vegetables are key in solving Africa’s food and income security challenges. The total production of these crops almost doubles that of maize, rice and wheat in Africa. These vegetatively propagated crops are an excellent source of cheap energy and are a key staple foods in Sub-Saharan Africa. The importance of these crops is well known for example East African Highland bananas in the African Great Lakes region, and Cassava and Plantains in West Africa. Some cultivars are very nutritious because they are rich in vitamins or essential minerals. Research shows that a family of five could meet their annual vitamin A requirements from only a small 10 x 50 meter plot of recently developed orange flesh sweet-potato, even at low yield levels of around 5 tonnes per hectare.

Root and vegetative crops such as these are mostly produced, processed, and traded in farm households or locally, making them less vulnerable than grain to abrupt price changes in international markets. Cassava and sweet-potato can be grown in marginal conditions and nontraditional areas, and can be produced with relatively few inputs because of their ability to tolerate many abiotic stresses such as drought or heat or poor soils. In some agro-ecosystems, they often complement cereals to cut risk and make more efficient use of resources by providing food earlier in the farming calendar or by be planted in otherwise fallow periods between grain crops. They are also known as “famine crops” because of their particular role during the “lean or hunger season” when their tuberous roots can be harvested as needed to meet shortfalls in grain.  and other vegetative crops. A uniquely African Green Revolution requires urgent improvements in the supply of  new and improved cultivars of these vegetative crops.

Multiplication and dissemination of new varieties requires new innovation in greenhouse, tissue-culture, micro-propagation and decentralized field multiplications of healthy planting materials. In Africa today, farmer or commercial multiplication of these crops is very low compared with multiplication of cereal and pulse seed. Most planting materials used by farmers are often of poor quality because they are infected with pests and diseases, which perpetuate (and exacerbate) pest losses through successive growth cycles. Newly developed higher yielding, or disease and pest tolerant cultivars, have not been made available in sufficient and reliable quantities to satisfy the demands of African growers.

The best strategy to deliver healthy planting materials for vegetatively propagated crops includes micro-propagation of healthy propagules of selected germplasm along with multiplication in greenhouses, shade-houses and field plots. Micro-propagation is the process of growing tissue culture for plant shoot-tips in a laboratory until they are ready for transplant into the field. This propagation system significantly reduces pathogen incidence and may dramatically improve yield when coupled with good agronomic practices. Micro-propagation systems can easily include quality control to ensure certification and delivery of “clean” propagules. Tissue culture-derived materials can rapidly grow, helping  the introduction of newly bred germplasm at reasonable cost and speed.  They are also amenable to biological enhancement (e.g. with endophytes that extend the benefits of “clean” planting material) before delivery to farmers. Macro-propagation will be further use to multiply additional clean planting material locally and at a lower cost. However, when re‐infection rates are high, a continual supply of new planting material will be a must for annual or biennial replanting or these vegetatively propagated crops.

Phytosanitary testing to support schemes for certifying the quality of such materials throughout the production chain will be also a key element for this rapid multiplication system. The production, conditioning, and marketing of certified planting materials will be the responsibility of the public or private grower but the certifying agency must verify that they follow the approved regulations outlined by the national authority to meet the required standards for certification.

African Seed Network
Guest Contribution by Rodomiro Ortiz, PhD
Professor, Genetics and Plant Breeding
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Alnarp, Sweden

Rodomiro Ortiz worked as researcher at UNALM, CIP (Perú), Rutgers Univ. (USA) and IITA (Nigeria), held a Nordic professorship in plant genetic resources at the Univ. Copenhagen (Denmark), and director at ICRISAT (India), IITA and CIMMYT (México).

Posted by on April 12, 2012 in General


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Nigeria releases vitamin A cassava to improve public health for millions

Photo Credit: IITA

The Nigerian Government announced in December, the release of three new vitamin A-rich ‘yellow’ cassava varieties that could provide more vitamin A in the diets of over 70 million Nigerians who eat cassava every day. The yellow color – cassava is generally white – is due to the higher vitamin A content.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. It afflicts almost 20% of pregnant women and about 30% of children under-five in Nigeria. VAD can lower immunity and impair vision, which can lead to blindness and even death.

Children and women will be the main beneficiaries of these new yellow varieties, which could provide up to 25% of their daily vitamin A needs. Varieties with enough vitamin A to provide up to half of daily needs are already in the breeding pipeline and should be ready for release in a few years.

These new yellow varieties were bred using traditional (non-transgenic) methods by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Nigerian National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and were liked by farmers during field trials. Cassava is an extremely adaptable crop; it is drought tolerant, requires limited land preparation, and grows well in poor soils. The new yellow varieties are also high yielding and resistant to major diseases and pests.

“Demand for these varieties has already started, but it will take some time before we have enough quantities to give out,” said Paul Ilona, the HarvestPlus Manager for Nigeria.

The yellow cassava is already being multiplied through stem cuttings. In 2013, when sufficient certified stems are available, HarvestPlus and its partners will initially distribute these to about 25,000 farming households. Farmers will be able to grow these new vitamin A varieties and feed them to their families. They can also multiply and share cuttings with others in their community amplifying the nutritional benefits. After the mid-2014 harvest, more than 150,000 household members are expected to be eating vitamin A cassava.

This work is funded by HarvestPlus, which leads a global effort to breed and disseminate micronutrient-rich staple food crops to reduce hidden hunger in malnourished populations. Other partners include the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and Nigerian Government agencies. HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health, which is coordinated by CIAT and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Prevalence of vitamin A deficiency. Red is mos...

Global Vitamin A Deficiency. Image via Wikipedia

Source: CGIAR Consortium, Jan 13, 2012

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in ECOWAS


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