Research led by Rebecca Bart, Ph.D., associate member, and Nigel Taylor, Ph.D., associate member and Dorothy King distinguished investigator, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and their collaborators at ETH Zurich, University of California Los Angeles, and the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, has identified a genetic mutation that confers resistance to cassava mosaic disease (CMD). Their findings have significant implications for improving cassava yield and sustaining farmer income in the face of a widespread disease, and their discovery could also shed light on disease-resistance in other major crops. This work was recently published in Nature Communications.
Cassava, a starchy root crop rich in carbohydrates, is one of the most important staple foods in the world; it feeds nearly one billion people, mostly in the tropics. Cassava is considered a staple in many developing countries, especially among small holder farmers, due to its drought-tolerance and ability to grow in poor soils. However, farmers in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia—some of the largest cassava producing regions in the world—too often suffer huge yield losses due to CMD. CMD infected plants are stunted and do not fully develop the storage roots that are used for food.Cassava mosaic disease is caused by a family of closely related viruses. The virus hijacks cassava's DNA replication system, compromising its development and thus suppressing yield. "Breeding better, CMD-resistant cassava varieties has significant implications to secure the livelihoods of smallholder farmers," explains Taylor. CMD-resistant cassava varieties exist and are thought to have been originally ...
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