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Jul 19, 2010

Cassava Researchers Make Progress on Post-Harvest Deterioration

Cassava for sale in a market in Costa Rica
photo courtesy of the International
Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
On 19 July 2010 the Crop Science Research Association of America based in Madison, Wisconsin issued a press release announcing the publication of research recently undertaken by crop scientists on the shelf-life of cassava roots. 

Following harvest, cassava is subject to rapid deterioration within two to four days.  Researchers have been able to address this condition of "post-harvest physiological deterioration" (PHPD) by studying the genetic structure of cassava.  Cassava PHPD has a significant impact on the poor, as it is the poor in Africa and Latin America that mainly consume this crop. 

Researchers led by Hernán Ceballos at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture have identified four different sources of tolerance to PHPD. Results of their study were presented in the July-August 2010 edition of Crop Science, published by the Crop Science Society of America.  The sources of tolerance noticed in the following four samples include:
  1. the only species of cassava native to the United States;
  2. cassava bombarded by mutagenic levels of gamma rays targetted at neutralizing one of genes that causes  deterioration symptoms;
  3. a group of high-carotene cassava clones in which the antioxidant properties of carotenoids protect the roots from deterioration (an oxidative process);
  4. a waxy-starch mutant (researchers believe that the waxy-starch gene is co-located next to a tolerance gene, and resistance to deterioration is not directly caused by the mutant gene).
According to Ceballos, "as the samples include wild relatives of cassava, the study demonstrates the need for continued germsplasm collection."

"Future research will focus on finding additional sources of tolerance and identifying molecular markers linked to those traits. This will allow for early identification of tolerant varieties, overcoming the current limitations of cassava research, which involve growing large numbers of roots to obtain sufficient data."

This research has been conducted with objectives of the F.A.O. 2000 Global Cassava Initiative in mind.  It specifically addresses the initiative's goal that cassava "become the raw material base for an array of processed products and contribute to agricultural transformation and economic growth in developing countries."
For more see: "Increasing the Shelf-Life of Cassava,"Crop Science Society of America Press Release, 19 July 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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