In Missouri, the Virus Resistant Cassava for Africa Plus consortium of American, Nigerian, Ugandan, and Kenyan institutions received a five-year, $10.46 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop disease-resistant and nutritionally-enhanced cassava varieties to improve the livelihoods and health status of African farm families.
Cassava is an important food and cash crop for small-holder farmers as it grows well in conditions of drought and low soil fertility prevalent in many African countries. It is an excellent source of calories, but does not contain significant levels of key nutrients to meet minimum daily requirements. And, plant viral diseases can destroy up to 100 percent of a cassava crop yield.
VIRCA Plus plans two products – East African cassava varieties with resistance to Cassava Mosaic Disease and Cassava Brown Streak Disease; and, a Nigerian cassava variety with disease resistance and elevated levels of iron and zinc for improved nutrition.