Department of Biology & Biochemistry


4 South 1.11


Tel: +44 (0) 1225 383572 


Dr John Beeching


Current Research

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is the world’s sixth most important crop in terms of production and is the staple food of over 700 million in the tropical regions of the world, being of particular importance in sub-Saharan Africa. With increasing population pressures and demand for food in these regions the production of cassava will need to increase over the next few decades; as a result cassava is now an international priority crop for improvement.

The starchy storage roots of cassava deteriorate rapidly upon harvesting rendering them unpalatable and unmarketable with 24 – 72 hours. With increased urbanisation and the entry of cassava into the cash economy this post-harvest deterioration physiological (PPD) has become a major constraint to the development and exploitation of this crop impacting on producers, processors and consumers alike. Extending the shelf-life of cassava roots to one to two weeks would resolve this bottleneck, unlocking the crop's full potential and converting cassava into a modern crop for Africa and the world.

The prime focus of my laboratory is directed towards understanding and ultimately controlling this deterioration process. PPD is an active process involving changes in gene expression, the synthesis of novel proteins and changing profiles of accumulation of secondary metabolites. Work using cDNA micro-arrays has confirmed the central role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and has led to a model of PPD as a ROS-mediated programmed cell death (PCD). We are testing candidate genes in transgenic cassava for their ability to modify the anti-oxidant and anti-PCD status of the storage roots. Potentially these constructs may have the ability to delay the deterioration response.

This research forms part of major collaborative projects with national and international laboratories in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the US aimed at addressing the major constraints to the improvement of cassava as a crop.


Read publications by John Beeching

View more publications »