Scientists alarmed by rapid spread of Brown Streak Disease in cassava

May 13, 2013 |

In Italy, cassava experts are reporting a triple threat against cassava, including Cassava Brown Streak Disease virus, Cassava Mosaic Disease and a possible whitefly “superbug”. CBSD alone could cause a could cause a 50% drop in cassava production.

This is worrisome because agriculture experts have been looking to the otherwise resilient cassava plant—which is also used to produce starch, flour, biofuel, beer and can be used in bioplastic production – as the perfect crop for helping to feed a continent where growing conditions in many regions are deteriorating in the face of climate change.

Cassava has a known ability to survive high temperatures, but those same temperatures appear to be one of several factors causing an explosion of whiteflies. Scientists are discussing options, including work on more disease-resistant varieties like those recently released in Tanzania, means and methods for a way to eradicate cassava viruses altogether, as well finding cost-effective and environmentally sustainable ways to control whiteflies.

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