Cassava (Manihot esculentum) is a critical world food crop, the third most consumed staple outside of rice and maize. It is even more critical because it is a vigorous plant that grows well in challenging areas. The crop feeds close to 800,000 people worldwide, mostly in Africa, South America and Asia.
Production is challenged by a number of biotic and abiotic factors. Viral diseases move quickly through growing regions, vectored by whiteflies. The starchy tuber also lacks key nutrients.
This Talking Biotech episode features Prof. Herve Vanderschuren from the University of Leige. He is part of a team that has engineered key enzymes into cassava to enable the production of Vitamin B6, a key nutrient. The second part speaks to Dr. Laura Boykin, a scientist using bioinformatics tools to characterize the whitefly pest that spreads the devastating viral diseases. She also speaks passionately about the people of eastern Africa, and presents a palpable mission to bring them the technical tools and computational know-how to address their continent’s pressing food problems.
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