Lost resistance: GMO cassava project demonstrates difficulties of crop improvement

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In Sub-saharan Africa, cassava serves as a major staple for most people; in fact it is the third largest carbohydrate source after rice and maize. Some of the more than 500 million cassava consumers in the region eat is as often as three times a day. It’s a dependable crop because cassava grows well in poor soils with little rainfall.

But two main diseases continue to damage the crop on the continent, causing farmers huge losses.

There are a number of cassava varieties in East Africa that have natural resistance to the [cassava mosaic disease (CMD) virus]. The VIRCA Plus project used modern biotechnology processes to introduce the genes responsible for resistance to [cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) virus] into the ones with natural resistance to CMD. The result: the natural CMD resistance was lost.

[Andrew Kiggundu, project manager of the Institute for International Crop Improvement at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center] attributes the situation to inexplicable circumstances that demonstrate how complicated plant science can be. But he says work is ongoing to correct that and re-introduce the lost resistance into the variety so it can have both.

Read full, original post: Unraveling the complexities of plant science

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