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Modified Cassava Varieties

The Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute will produce disease-resistant genetically modified cassava varieties.

Without specifically saying when they will be produced, researcher Joseph Ndunguru said the varieties would be resistant to cassava brown streak and mosaic diseases, which are reportedly threatening food security in Ukerewe, Mwanza.

He was speaking during a forum for agricultural science and technologies in Dar es Salaam. He said previous traditional ways to fight the diseases had little success.

It was against that background that the Dar es Salaam-based institute embarked on a project aimed at producing disease-resistant cassava clones.

According to Dr Ndunguru, after completing the study, findings will immediately be communicated to farmers. Cassava accounts for 15 per cent of the national food production basket.

According to the National Census on agriculture of 2002/03, there were more than 865,834 hectares of cassava and two million tonnes of the crop were produced a season.

However, up to 20 per cent of fresh tuberous root weight was lost due to the diseases. Subsequently, the losses due to the diseases amounted to Sh45-91 billion last year.

Agriculturalists say technologies such as genetic engineering can raise crop production.

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