Cassava

Amazonian legends tell about a fair skinned child named Mani who died and how a rootcrop was found in the place where she was buried. Some legends say that the rootcrop became known as 'mani oca' and some say that it became known as 'mandioca'. Legends aside, cassava (manihot esculenta), also known as manioc or yuka, is said to have originated in Brazil and from there spread to South and Central America, Africa and Asia.

Cassava is one of the ten most important crops in the world. For its high starch content, it is used for both food and industrial purposes. As an industrial crop, it is used for drilling wells, making glue for wood products, coating for paper products, and gums for envelope flaps. It is used for producing bio-fuel and is an ingredient in dusting powder, toothpaste, stain removers and detergents. It is a key ingredient for animal feed. The tubers and leaves of cassava can be consumed by humans but need to be prepared carefully to remove the linamarin content - a pre-cursor of cyanide glycosides - that could cause poisoning. In Africa, cassava is a major staple food. The tuber has high carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals content. The young leaves also contain protein, carotene, calcium and iron. The tubers are boiled or fried or made into flour for use in making bread, tortillas or porridge. The flour is also used as a thickening agent, tapioca pearls and different kinds of dessert.

The cassava plant needs minimal care, grows well in poor soils and thrives in humid as well as extremely dry conditions. The perennial plant grows up to 3 - 5m high and has deeply indented palmated leaves attached to a long slender petiole. Storage roots form tubers that grow from the stem to about 50-100 cm under the ground surface. Small, greenish-yellow flowers form capsules with seeds. Seeds are only used for selecting and breeding new varieties. Stem cuttings are used as planting materials for cassava production. Recently, in Southeast Asia, the pink cassava mealybug has become a major pest that warranted the introduction of the parasitoid Anagyrus lopezi from Benin.

More information about cassava can be found in: Save and Grow Cassava: A Guide to Sustainable Crop Intensification ( http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3278e/i3278e00.htm )

See also the CIAT video on practical tips to reduce the chance of mealybugs arriving in cassava fields - including planting time, use of healthy planting materials, disinfecting cassava stakes, protecting beneficial insects and regularly observing the crop ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym9h-88oUgY )


Click the list below for more crop specific information

  1. General Information: Origin, distribution etc.

  2. Production / Productivity
  3. Cassava pests / diseases
  4. Post Harvest: