Battling a Virus Ravaging East Africa’s Cassava Crops – New York Times

MUKONO, Uganda — Lynet Nalugo dug a cassava tuber out of her field and sliced it open.

Inside its tan skin, the white flesh was riddled with necrotic brown lumps, as obviously diseased as any tuberculosis lung or cancerous breast.

“Even the pigs refuse this,” she said.

The plant was what she called a “2961,” meaning it was Variant No. 2961, the only local strain bred to resist cassava mosaic virus, a disease that caused a major African famine in the 1920s.

But this was not mosaic disease, which only stunts the plants. Her field had been attacked by a new and more damaging virus named brown streak, for the marks it leaves on stems.

That newcomer, brown streak, is now ravaging cassava crops in a great swath around Lake Victoria, threatening millions of East Africans who grow the tuber as their staple food.

Although it has been seen on coastal farms for 70 years, a mutant version emerged in Africa’s interior in 2004, “and there has been explosive, pandemic-style spread since then,” said Claude M. Fauquet, director of cassava research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. “The speed is just unprecedented, and the farmers are really desperate.”

UH News: UH Mānoa CTAHR invites public to 2009 Waimanalo Research Station Field

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa


Miles Hakoda, (808) 956-3093

Posted: Sep. 18, 2009

The public is invited to take an up-close look at some exciting research and outreach activities in Hawai‘i agriculture.

Who: UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)

What: Will host its 20th Waimanalo Research Station Field Day

When: Saturday, September 26, 9 a.m. to noon

Where: Waimānalo Research Station, 41-698 Ahiki Street

Visitors will have the opportunity to see:

* corn field trials.

* Kapi‘olani Community College’s Culinary Program.

* organic pepper and eggplant field trials.

* biotechnology outreach program.

* taro varieties collection (over 90 varieties).

* plumeria tree collection.

* cacao project.

* biofuel project.

* USDA erosion control project.

The public is encouraged to bring water and wear appropriate footwear, sunscreen, comfortable loose fitting clothing and hats for sun protection.