The Cassava Molecular Deversi Network (MOLCAS)

In its five years of existence, MOLCAS has begun a process of systematically studying germplasm resources in cassava towards the exploitation of useful variability and increasing crop productivity, especially with small farmers who are the majority of cassava growers in mind.

For further information contact: Martin Fregene

The hundreds of thousands of cassava land races held by farmers in Latin America, Africa and Asia are the results of thousands or hundreds of years of evolution and natural selection, and are an invaluable resource for the future. However collecting using them in a systematic way to increase the crop's productivity and to protect the future harvest is a task beyond any particular organization or country. The cassava molecular diversity network (MOLCAS) seeks to collect and characterize using molecular markers cassava land races in Africa and Latin America by supporting its members with tools, funds and relevant existing information. The network, funded by the International Chemical Sciences Program (IPICs), University of Uppsala, comprises of scientists drawn from institutes in Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Brazil, Sweden, Peru, Colombia, France, and the USA.

The goal of MOLCAS remains to enhance the productivity of cassava by:

  1. Collection and molecular marker study of genetic variation of cassava land races.
  2. Elucidation of the genetic diversity and differentiation of land races in Africa compared to what exists in the crop’s primary center of diversity.
  3. The exploitation of this information in systematic improvement of the crop.
  4. Build capacity in the sub Saharan region for molecular diversity assessment and interpretation.

The network achieves its objectives by linking up with different national and international institutes in Africa and South America and advanced labs and universities in developed countries interested in studying the genetic diversity of cassava. Members conduct germplasm collection, molecular characterization, and field trials with cassava land races in Africa and Latin America.

Studies concluded to date by members of the network include:
  1. A SSR study of cassava land races in Northern Malawi (Bvumbwe Agricultural Research Station Malawi, SLU, Uppsala, Sweden)
  2. A SSR study of cassava land races in Southern Tanzania (CIAT, SLU, ARI Mwanza, ARI Mikocheni Tanzania)
  3. A molecular marker SSR study of cassava land races from the Amazonian basin and North Eastern coast of Brazil (ICA-Campinas, Brazil)

Ongoing studies include:
  1. SSR study of a cassava collection from the Amazonian region of Colombia (CIAT, Uni Valle Colombia)
  2. SSR study of land races in Nigeria (IITA, NRCRI Nigeria, CIAT)
  3. Test for heterotic (hybrid vigor) patterns in clusters of previous collections (CIAT).

The primary mode of disseminating the research results obtained through the network has been through refereed journal papers and MOLCAS workshops held bi-annually. However to improve access to data from the germplasm studies consideration has been given to dissemination by the internet through a MOLCAS web site.

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