The next agri-food revolution begins in Cali having the 18th Triennial Symposium of The International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC), which will be held from October 22 to 25 at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) headquarters, having as slogan and as guiding question: When, Where and How will Tropical Root and Tuber Crops Lead the Next Agri-Food Revolution.

Having as main pillar the acknowledgment of tropical roots and tubers (cassava, potato, sweet potato and, yams and aroids), are collectively the third most important food crops in the world (800 million MT) after sugar cane (1,874 million MT) and maize (974 million MT) by production, 200 participants will be working for four days, within the framework of this symposium, for reviewing the state of the art on research in these crops, identifying opportunities for new research niches, proposing strategies to strengthen public-private partnerships, as well as proposing interventions for more favorable policy making.

This world level event is a reality thanks to the close collaboration between two allies who have worked as a team for five decades: The International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) and CIAT. The first one is committed in promoting, stimulating and investing in research for development on to tropical root crops to increase and ensure their contributions to food security, sustainable development, economic growth and poverty reduction. All of them are key issues for achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The second one has being hosted in Colombia since its foundation in 1967. For CIAT, cassava is one of the main staple crops in which it researches for developing higher yields varieties, better starch quality, improved nutritional quality, resistant to pests and diseases. CIAT conserves in vitro the world’s most important collection of cassava germplasm. The cassava collection held in trust at CIAT includes a total of 6,592 accessions from 28 countries, represented in 5,709 clones of Manihot esculenta and 883 genotypes of wild species conserved using in vitro techniques. CIAT also contributes to the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, whose director Graham Thiele will be attending this symposium.

Accessions from 28 countries

Clones of Manihot esculenta

Genotypes of wild species

Tropical roots and tubers are grown in 104 countries, including Colombia, where 244,172 hectares were harvested in 2017, producing 2’647,378 tonnes. All these countries are facing challenges and opportunities on strategic issues in their value chain. Among them, the development and access of better seeds with improved nutritional content and well received by consumers. As well as the adoption of new varieties, better practices for pests and diseases management, postharvest and commercialization. Also in terms of soils management, mechanization, and harvest, within a scenario in which climate change effects are becoming more tangible.

Such a big challenge becomes the perfect opportunity for having Jan Low presence and experience. She is Principal Scientist at the International Potato Center (CIP). In 2016, she received, along with three other scientists, the World Food Prize for their work developing and disseminating micronutrient-rich crops, including the biofortified, vitamin A-enriched orange-fleshed sweet potato.

She, in close collaboration with some other scientists coming from research centers such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) based in Nigeria, the University of Greenwich, located in the United Kingdom, and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), will seek to contribute to solving tough questions such as: are we solving malnutrition? How to improve nutrition and health through roots and tuber biofortification? How to foster more demand-driven research and innovation? How to contribute for making sure that benefits effectively reach all value chain actors?

In sum, at the end of these four days of intense work, the participants will be up-to-date on research advances, innovations, and cutting-edge technologies, as well as satisfied of having contributed to identifying new investment areas for research, development and value chains. They have also had an opportunity to identify strategies for capacity strengthening and policy making that will benefit more and more small farmers.

The symposium will end by recognizing the importance and impact of scientific contributions, by delivering the Lifetime Achievement Award, granted to those who have contributed to root and tuber crops research over the whole of a career, as well as the Pat Coursey Prize for Yam, awarded to who presents the best publication or scientific poster within the framework of this symposium. This award is in recognition of Dr. Pat Coursey, a British Scientist born in 1929 and who was among the first to recognize the importance for need to research yam as a crop and raise its profile around the world.

More Information: Oriana Muriel (o.muriel@cgiar.org)

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