Super cassava

PLANT breeders at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria have developed a high-yielding variety of cassava that will be able to withstand even drought conditions. Cassava, a tuber that resembles a large potato, is Africa's most widely-grown and staple food.

When the researchers at the institute crossbred cultivated species of the cassava plant with wild varieties, they found the crossbred plants contained spontaneous "polyploids" -- cell nuclei with more than the normal two sets of chromosomes and upto four times the normal number of chromosomes. Plants with more chromosomes have a higher yield.

When tested in field-like conditions, the new variety was found to yield 50-70 tonnes of cassava per ha. The most superior kind of cassava known till now -- TMS 30572 -- yields an average 23 tonnes per ha. In the field, this variety yields just 12 tonnes a ha, while the new variety is expected to yield 40 tonnes on every ha.