Cassava roots. UN scientists are warning that a virus attacking the cassava plant is nearing an epidemic in parts of Africa. BBCBy Matt McGrath, Science reporter, BBC World Service
17 November 2011

UN scientists are warning that a virus attacking the cassava plant is nearing an epidemic in parts of Africa.

Cassava is one of the world's most important crops providing up to a third of the calorie intake for many people.

The food and agriculture organisation of the UN says the situation is urgent and are calling for an increase in funding for surveillance.

None of the varieties of cassava being distributed to farmers in Africa appears to be resistant to the virus.

Cassava is a global food source of particular importance in Africa as it does well on poor soils with low rainfall.

But like many crops it is threatened by a number of pests and diseases that hinder its production. Viral infections have periodically wiped out the crop in some regions leading to famine.

Now the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that another virus is threatening the crop in large parts of East Africa.

The scientists say the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is on the verge of becoming an epidemic. It first appeared in Uganda in 2006 but in the past few months has been found in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the first time.

According to Mike Robson, a plant production and protection officer with the FAO it's hard to know exactly where the virus is as surveillance systems are poor.

"It is hard to say precisely but we're finding it where we go looking for it "

Robson says that a particular problem with this virus is that farmers may think they have a healthy crop until the harvest, as the symptoms only show on the roots.

"That's a particularly distressing situation where a farmer thinks he has a healthy field of cassava but when they come to uproot it, their expectations of food are not going to be met." […]

UN warns of staple crop virus 'epidemic' via Wit’s End


  1. Pangolin said...

    This is the real reason why GMO's are a horribly bad idea. Genetic bottlenecks.

    One bad virus, fungus or bacteria and we could lose the whole corn crop and then we starve. A simultaneous plague in two or more staple crops and we see a rapid drop in world population.

    There simply isn't enough genetic diversity in our staple crops to keep us alive anymore.  


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