The Invisible Side of Science: Protecting Crops through Nanotechnology

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Uncovering the Root Cause of Witches’ Broom Disease in Cassava

In Southeast Asia, most smallholder farmers rely on cassava: its starch-rich roots form the basis of an industry that supports millions of producers. In the past decade, however, Cassava Witches’ Broom disease has stunted plants, reducing harvests to levels that barely permit affected farmers to eke out a living.

In a recent breakthrough, researchers compared DNA from healthy and diseased plant samples to reveal the underlying culprit behind the disease: the fungus genus Ceratobasidium. With these findings, published in Scientific Reports, plant pathologists in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are better able to track and stop the spread of Witches’ Broom disease.

Comparing Cassava plants affected by witches broom disease in Laos. Photo: Alie Galeon

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