BELLAGIO, ITALY (6 MAY 2013) Cassava experts are reporting new outbreaks and the increased spread of Cassava Brown Streak Disease or CBSD, warning that the rapidly proliferating plant virus could cause a 50 percent drop in production of a crop that provides a significant source of food and income for 300 million Africans.
The "pandemic" of CBSD now underway is particularly worrisome because agriculture experts have been looking to the otherwise resilient cassava plantwhich is also used to produce starch, flour, biofuel and even beeras the perfect crop for helping to feed a continent where growing conditions in many regions are deteriorating in the face of climate change.
"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," said Claude Fauquet, a scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (known by its Spanish acronym CIAT) who heads the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21). "We are particularly concerned that the disease could spread to West Africa and particularly Nigeriathe world's largest producer and consumer of cassavabecause Nigeria would provide a gateway for an invasion of West Africa where about 150 million people depend on the crop."
Fauquet and his colleagues in the GCP21an alliance of scientists, developers, donors and industry representativesare gathering at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy this week for a conference dedicated to "declaring war on cassava viruses in Africa."
A "Silent Killer" Emerges: CBSD on Warpath from East to West
First identified in 1935 in East Africa and little-known until about ten years ago, CBSD has emerged as the most serious threat among the various cassava viruses. Infections can claim 100 percent of a farmer's harvest without the farmer's knowledge. The leaves of infected pla
|Contact: Michelle Geis|