Agrobiodiversity

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Agrobiodiversity / / Waxy starch cassava variety for Brazil

Waxy starch cassava variety for Brazil

CIAT has entered into a public-private sector partnership, whose purpose is to develop novel cassava varieties for Brazil that possess amylose-free starch. The development of this specialty product for the country’s industrial starch market, by generating new demand for cassava, will offer farmers adopting the new varieties an opportunity to boost their incomes.

The other two participants in this collaboration are the National Research Center for Cassava and Tropical Fruit Crops (CNPMF) of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and Ingredion, a US-based private starch company operating in Brazil. Begun in 2011, the partnership entered a second phase last September.

The collaboration builds on pioneering CIAT research, which led in 2006 to the identification of so-called “waxy” cassava. The result of a natural mutation, the special properties of this cassava caught the attention of the starch industry. Amylose-free starch in cassava is characterized by a tendency to gelatinize easily, which yields clear pastes with higher viscosity. The value added of waxy starch in cassava derives from its ability to improve the freeze-thaw stability of food products.

A commercial waxy starch variety developed from CIAT germplasm, in collaboration with Kasetsart University and with financial support from the Thai Tapioca Development Institute, is undergoing agronomic evaluation for release in Thailand. Now, the idea is to develop such materials suited to cassava growing conditions in Brazil, where cassava is used not only as a staple food but also as a raw material for the starch industry.

cassava roots stained with  iodine solution. Blue shows normal starch and reddish brown shows waxy starch

Cassava roots stained with iodine solution. Normal starch, stained blue and waxy starch, stained reddish brown.

The first generation of plants derived from crosses between waxy genotypes and cassava varieties from Brazil was randomly crossed among themselves at CIAT headquarters, and the resulting cassava seeds were sent to Brazil for further advanced field trials to obtain a commercial variety.

“We’ve already shipped 17,000 cassava seeds to CNPMF,” said Clair Hershey, leader of CIAT’ s Cassava Program, “and the seed is currently undergoing the quarantine process with the Brazilian phytosanitary authorities. Once these seeds are released from quarantine, they will be germinated, and CNPMF will then carry out several cycles of selection. One to three high-yielding waxy varieties with the desired agronomic characters will be chosen and multiplied.”

One method of selecting for the waxy trait in cassava involves the application of an iodide solution to the roots; in waxy cassava, the roots turn reddish brown, while in normal cassava, they turn blue.

“In Brazil as in Thailand, we expect the waxy varieties to give outstanding results in terms of expanding food and industrial markets for cassava,” Hershey said.

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  • Reinhardt Howeler: Thanks, Keith. It was a pleasure writing this book as it brought back so many good memories of working with cassava, both in Latin America and in Asia. I was lucky that the Nippon Foundation suggested that I write this book and financed its publication. They also wanted a simplified version for farmers and extension workers that could be translated into various languages. The English version of this new book is now going to press in Hanoi, while the Khmer and Vietnamese translations are also ready for printing and the Thai and Chinese translations are still being worked on. In case you are interested in the English version, let me know. My email address is still r.howeler@cgiar.org. And let me know where you are working now and what you are doing. Reinhardt
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  • Keith Fuglie: An impressive publication! Reinhardt Howeler has done an incredible job of summarizing lessons from nearly 30 years of work on cassava improvement in Asia. This very successful collaboration between CIAT and national research programs demonstrates what can be achieved through modest but persistent investment in agricultural research, even with a relatively neglected crop grown primarily by poor farm families in marginal environments.
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