An alliance of scientists has been formed to help promote cassava, which has emerged as a “survivor” crop able to thrive in the expected higher temperatures engendered by climate change, a scientific conference in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, heard.
Some 300 scientists attending the second International Scientific Conference of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP-21-II) announced the alliance, named the Global Cassava Modelling Consortium, which will offer a platform to world cassava researchers to share research information, better understand the physiology of the plant, and explore avenues for protecting it from attacks now that it has even greater importance for the food security of many regions in the world.
The new consortium will initially establish a loose network of scientists sharing and analysing current cassava research and historical research data. As it grows, the network will include the sharing of experiences with cassava farmers across the Tropics, with farms being treated as experimental stations in their own right.
Andy Jarvis, a climate change scientist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and CGIAR’s Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Research Programme, told the conference that a study published in February in the journal Tropical Plant Biology revealed that temperatures in East and West Africa – two major cassava growing regions – are expected to rise by around 1.8 degrees Celsius by 2030, but that the cassava plant will thrive.
“While this [rising temperature] poses problems for the suitability of food staples like bean, banana and sorghum, cassava suitability is likely to be the exception to the rule… Research shows that it will brush off the higher temperatures,” he said. “Its potential is tremendously exciting. But now we have to act promptly on the research, as more pests and diseases are manifesting themselves because of climate change.”