Colombia is key in the fight against cassava “witches’ broom” disease in Southeast Asia
Researchers from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Colombia participated in the International Workshop on Cassava Witches’ Broom Disease: Methods of Diagnosis and Alternative Integrated Disease Management, which took place at CIAT headquarters November 18th to 29th.
The workshop was developed as part of the Strategy for South-South Cooperation in Southeast Asia, promoted by the Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation (APC). Through an agreement with CIAT and other partners, the agency seeks to empower Asian and Colombian researchers to tackle emerging diseases which threaten cassava production.
Cassava is an important crop for food security and livelihoods in Asia and Latin America. In Colombia, smallholders plant 154,704 hectares of cassava annually. In Southeast Asia, the root crop is grown by over 8 million farmers and is a primary source of calories for vulnerable populations in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.
Witches’ broom is a disease that spreads through contaminated cuttings, and can also be transmitted by insects. The most common symptoms are the presence of dwarfism in the plants, small leaves along the stem, and lower quality cassava roots.
The disease has been detected in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The impact is clear: The margin of loss is between 10 and 15%, with starch content reduced by 25 to 30%.
CIAT researchers in Colombia have offered their expertise in the detection and management of diseases such as witches’ broom. The workshop covered a range of issues such as the importance of the disease, symptoms, taxonomy, transmission, molecular diagnostics, bioinformatics, and integrated disease management, among others.
The workshop has helped boost South-South cooperation between Colombia and Asia while strengthening the research capacity of participants.