THE Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, under the Mansa Research Station, has started developing cassava varieties which are resistant to diseases.
This is to counter the many diseases affecting cassava in Luapula Province, resulting in low yield.
Mansa Research Station root and tuber programme officer Martin Chiona said the disease-resistant crop will help farmers to harvest more cassava.
He said the cassava mosaic disease, which is transmitted by the white fly, is the most common.
“Cassava is the staple food in Luapula Province, but farmers are not harvesting enough because of diseases,” he said.
Dr Chiona said the cassava mealie bug and green mite are the other pests which affect cassava.
He said the government has realised that if diseases and pests are not controlled, they may spread to other provinces.
Dr Chiona said the other factor which makes cassava important is that the people of Luapula Province depend on its leaves as the most commonly eaten vegetable during the dry season.
He said the Mansa Research Station is also contemplating improving the protein content in cassava.
Dr Chiona said the improvement of protein in cassava will make it compete with maize.
He said it is important to increase the cassava yield, especially that some local and foreign companies have expressed interest in buying it for starch processing.
[Zambia Daily Mail]