New technique improves Cassava quality
Dr John Beeching of Biology & Biochemistry has recently published a paper describing an improved method to genetically engineer Cassava.
Cassava is a tropical, perennial plant originating from South America. It is now cultivated worldwide in humid tropical climates. Its tubular roots and leaves are edible. An important, staple-diet crop in sub-Saharan Africa, in Europe, Cassava is mostly associated with tapioca. Cassava roots are high in starch and vitamin C, but low in vitamin A and protein. A good source of energy, it can be eaten with other vegetables to make a nutritionally-balanced meal. Cassava is also used for animal feeds and bio-fuels.
While Cassava grows well in poor soils and survives drought, it is low in nutrients. Like all crops, it is susceptible to pests and diseases. Dr Beeching is a member of an international consortium whose objectives are to improve the nutritional content and disease resistance of Cassava. Genetically engineering Cassava is a complex process that can take up to nine months. Dr. Beeching and his team's new technique involves generating in vitro-somatic embryos: growing these in a Petri-dish before inserting the genes.
"Every step is critical," says Dr Beeching. "To regenerate a whole plant from a few cells, chemicals used and time taken must be monitored stringently. It's difficult to know which step might go wrong, so we reinitiate the process every month. Our improved method is more robust and versatile. This will enable it to be widely applied by colleagues in developed countries and Africa."
- To improve agro-ecology of Africa
- To produce stable crops and make them viral disease-resistant
- Increase protein and micro-nutrient content
- Extend 'shelf-life' of Cassava
News and related information
- Armed and beautiful - Financial Times
- Constituents and secondary metabolite natural products in fresh and deteriorated cassava roots - pubmed
- Bull, S.E., Owiti, J.A., Niklaus, M., Beeching, J.R., Gruissem, W., Vandershuren, H., 2009. Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of friable embryogenic calli and regeneration of transgenic cassava. Nature Protocols 4, 1845-1854. (Digital Object Identifier: 10.1038/nprot.2009.208)
- People currently involved in Cassava research at Bath
- Molecular tools for quality improvement in vegetatively propagated crops, including banana and cassava
- Graph: Total output for crops in 5 Cassava-producing, drought-affected, southern African countries
- In vitro-somatic embryos