Viral diseases blamed for low cassava yields

Written by  Isaac Jali

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development says Malawi and other Sub Saharan countries are failing to maximise cassava production due to two viral diseases; cassava mosaic and cassava brown streak.

Cassava mosaic and cassava brown streak destroying crops Cassava mosaic and cassava brown streak destroying crops

Minister responsible Dr Allan Chiyembekeza made the remarks in Lilongwe when he opened a four day annual international conference on Disease Diagnostics for Sustainable Cassava Productivity in Africa.

The conference has attracted research experts from the UK, USA, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and the host Malawi, among many.

Dr Chiyembekeza said it was sad to note that Malawi and the Sub Saharan Africa which should have been relying on cassava due to changes in rainfall patterns, cassava yields have dwindled to the spread of the two diseases.

"The ideal situation is that here in Malawi and other countries in the region, should have been harvesting in the ranges of 25 to 40 metric tons per hectare, but we only realizing a meagre 5 metric tons per hectare due to the diseases." he said.


However Chiyembekeza said under the Cassava Productivity in Africa Project, Malawi and its partner countries in the project are at the verge of defeating the two diseases.

He said experts at Chitedze Research Station are breedingg virus resistant cassava varieties that are currently being deployed to many parts of Malawi.

"We are on cource to flooding the whole country with disease free cassava panting materials, our scientists are working around the clock to breed clean varieties." Said Dr Chiyembekeza.

He thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation....the main financiers, saying the project is bearing fruits.

He said under the project a laboratory has been set up at Chitedze to diagnose diseases.


"These labs are helpful because scientists can go out to the field, collect samples, conduct tests and come up with results which people can use to make decisions such as where to multiply clean planting

materials, and also to inform farmers not to move planting material from one place to another randomly to avoid further spread of the diseases." Chiyembekeza said.


Dr Ibrahim Benesi Deputy Director of Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the project is registering positive results because currently diseases incidences are going down because Chitedze Research is now deploying virus free planting materials to the farmers.


"Although we are making some headway, we appeal to farmers to avoid sharing planting materials anyhow to avoid contaminating disease free areas." Warned Dr Ibrahim Benesi.

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