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Danforth Center gets $2.5M for cassava research

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center was recently awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to develop a virus-resistant cassava.

Yearly harvests of the starchy shrub in East Africa have been hurt by infections spread by whiteflies and by cuttings, how cassava is commonly propagated by farmers.

The crop is the primary source of calories for more than 250 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa because it can grow in low-nutrient soils and withstand droughts that kill other plants.

Each year, cassava farmers lose at least 30 percent of their crop to cassava mosaic disease alone, and the cassava brown streak disease can be responsible for a complete loss of the harvest. In the Lake Victoria area, more than 7 million people are at risk of famine because of plant disease threats, according to the Danforth Center.

Danforth researchers have teamed up with partners in Kenya and Uganda on a project called Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa, or VIRCA.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a nonprofit research institute in Creve Coeur that focuses on human health and agricultural production.

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