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Scientists alarmed by rapid spread of Brown Streak Disease in cassava
Date:5/5/2013

Italy meeting, experts will discuss a variety of tactics for combating virus diseases, such as developing more disease-resistant varieties like those recently released in Tanzania. Efforts to breed high-yielding, disease-resistant plants suitable for Africa's various growing regions will involve going to South America, where cassava originated, and working with scientists to mine the cassava gene bank at CIAT in Colombiathe biggest repository of cassava cultivars in the world.

The expert team will also discuss a more ambitious plan: how to eradicate cassava viruses altogether. The aim will be to develop a bold regional strategy that will gradually, step-by-step, village-by-village, replace farmers' existing infested cassava plants with virus-free planting material of the best and most resistant available cultivars. Approaches will include new molecular breeding and genetic engineering technologies to speed up the selection and production of CMD and CBSD resistant cassava cultivars more appealing to farmers.

There also will be discussions about cost-effective and environmentally sustainable ways to control whiteflies, as well as proposals for new surveillance systems that can better track and stop the disease from spreading. Scientists will also discuss new research into the potential threat African cassava producers face from the introduction of new diseases currently found outside the continent.

"It's time for the world to recalibrate its scientific priorities," Fauquet said. "More than any other crop, cassava has the greatest potential to reduce hunger and poverty in Africa, but CBSD and other viruses are crippling yields. We need to treat CBSD and other destructive viruses like the smallpox of cassavaformidable diseases, but threats we can eradicate if everyone pulls together."


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Contact: Michelle Geis
mgeis@burnesscommunications.com
301-280-5712
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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