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Fortified cassava could provide a day's nutrition in a single meal
Date:6/30/2008

re food has gotten so expensive that people can't afford the diverse diet that they're used to."

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is the primary source of calories for an estimated 800 million people worldwide, including 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, the current focus of the Gates-funded project. But the plentiful crop has several drawbacks. It is composed almost entirely of carbohydrates so it does not provide complete nutrition.

"So what we're working on has become even more important in the last year than it was when we started, not just in regions where people are malnourished, but across developing countries where food has gotten so expensive that people can't afford the diverse diet that they're used to."

The roots can be banked in the ground for up to three years, providing food security, but the plant must undergo time-consuming processing immediately after harvest to remove compounds that generate cyanide. Unprocessed roots also deteriorate within 48 hours after harvest, limiting the food's shelf life. And a plant disease caused by the geminivirus reduces yields by 30 percent to 50 percent in many areas in sub-Saharan Africa, a major blow to farm productivity.

Sayre and colleagues from multiple institutions set out to tackle virtually all of cassava's problems to make the plant more nutritious and to increase the crop's revenue-producing potential for farmers.

Sayre reported that the research team has been able to address each of the plant's deficiencies in individual transgenic plants. The next step will be to combine some or all of the bioengineered traits into a single, farmer-preferred cultivar, with the goal of eventually developing cassava varieties that carry all of the improvements developed by the researchers.

"We've begun field trials in Puerto Rico to make sure the plants perform as well outside as they do in greenhouses, and we hope to start field trials in the target countries of N
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Contact: Richard Sayre
Sayre.2@osu.edu
614-292-9030
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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