Kenyan scientists on track to develop virus-resistant cassava

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/10/27 23:48:09

Scientists in Kenya are on track to develop a biotech cassava variety that is resistant to two common viruses, the researchers said on Thursday.

Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa (VIRCA) Principal Investigator Dr Simon Gichuki told Xinhua in Nairobi that the biotech cassava will be resistant to both Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSV).

"We are currently conducting confined fields trials and the biotech variety could be released to farmers in 2019," Gichuki said during the Agri-Biotech and Biosafety Sensitization meeting.

The scientists will then select the best plant variety for further testing on multiple sites for two planting seasons. The researchers have already developed a cassava variety that is resistant to each of the viruses separately.

"Our task is now to develop a cassava variety that is resistant to both viruses due to prevalence of both diseases," Gichuki said. "Our strategy is to use conventional cross breeding techniques to develop a genetically engineered plant."

Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSV) began along the Coast of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique and has since spread to the rest of East African states including Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

VIRCA is a joint research of Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and a number of international partners.

The Principal Investigator said that currently there is no cure for the virus diseases. "So the farmers have to rely on agronomic methods such as uprooting," Gichuki said.

He noted that cassava is an important crop in Kenya especially in the arid and semi-arid areas. "The crop is used as a food security crop because it can survive long periods of drought," he said.

Posted in: BIOLOGY

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