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Cassava Brown Streak Disease spreading rapidly

CBSD can claim 100 per cent of a farmer's harvest (© E Kanju/IITA)
CBSD can claim 100 per cent of a farmer's harvest
© E Kanju/IITA

New outbreaks of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) could cause a 50 per cent drop in production, cassava experts are warning. "Cassava is already incredibly important for Africa and is poised to play an even bigger role in the future, which is why we need to move quickly to contain and eliminate this plague," says Claude Fauquet, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). "We are particularly concerned that the disease could spread to West Africa and particularly Nigeria - the world's largest producer and consumer of cassava - because Nigeria would provide a gateway for an invasion of West Africa where about 150 million people depend on the crop."

Little-known until about ten years ago, CBSD has emerged as the most serious threat among cassava viruses: infections can claim 100 per cent of a farmer's harvest. There have been recent reports of new outbreaks in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the third largest cassava producer. Members of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) - an alliance of scientists, developers, donors and industry representatives - gathered recently to discuss tactics to combat viral diseases, including developing more disease-resistant varieties. "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," Fauquet adds. "We need to treat CBSD and other destructive viruses like the smallpox of cassava - formidable diseases, but threats we can eradicate if everyone pulls together."

Date published: May 2013

 

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