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A network of Southeast Asia’s cassava breeders, who have achieved some of the best progress in breeding history worldwide, met in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 9th and 10th to discuss research milestones and next steps.

Around two million hectares of cassava are planted to Southeast Asia’s breeding programs, said Dr. Clair Hershey, CIAT’s cassava program leader in his opening remarks.

Significant impact has been achieved, with high returns on investment in breeding, he noted. Market demand has been very robust for cassava, and since the 1980s, members of the network have improved the genetic diversity of cassava so that more varieties are now available for farmers throughout the region.

“The regional exchange of germplasm wasn’t just one way, but within the region there was an informal interchange of varieties, and now we have an opportunity to make that interchange more formal,” he said.

Demand for cassava in Southeast Asia remains high. But with competition from other sources of carbohydrates such as maize, there is still a great need to increase yield, efficiency, sustainability and profitably for regional farmers, which is what the network aims to do, he added.

This means meeting new challenges – not just in increasing yield and starch content, but also in addressing new threats posed by pests such as cassava mealybug which have intensified in the region – and also climate change.

The network, which includes members from CGIAR centers through the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, and experts from partnering institutes across Southeast Asia, will meet regularly to discuss challenges and opportunities to develop improved cassava varieties for farmers in the region and stay ahead of threats to production.

For more information contact g dot smith@cgiar.org

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