Cassava – A root that brings Corpoica and CIAT together

La yuca, una raíz que une a Corpoica y al CIAT

A total of eight cassava varieties will be released in Colombia´s Cauca Department, Caribbean region, and Eastern Plains during the second half of 2016. Coming at the end of an important collaborative process, this achievement also signals the start of new joint efforts by the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research (Corpoica) and CIAT. Planted to more than 200,000 hectares in Colombia, cassava is used mainly for food, livestock feed, and the production of native and fermented starch.

The latter is the primary product of processors in Northern Cauca. These white-fleshed varieties have been bred bearing in mind a special target market: the sour cassava processors in the Colombian Department of Cauca, as well as the native starch industry and drying patios, dedicated to producing dried chunks of cassava for animal feed.

CORPOICA’s current research agenda for development of roots and tubers encompasses a wide-ranging portfolio for cassava. It includes biofortification – to achieve high carotenoid content – high and stable dry matter content, and forage production for animal feed. Crop biofortification was proposed by the CGIAR initiative HarvestPlus, whose director was recently honored with the World Food Prize in recognition of the impact of this innovative approach. CIAT’s Cassava Program has been working towards producing high-carotene progenitors, which can be used in breeding varieties for farmers in Africa.

Recent years have seen a growing interest in breeding biofortified cassava varieties for Latin America, with the aim of contributing to food security in countries such as Colombia. Such varieties must have special culinary traits and also be well adapted to environmental conditions in the areas where they will be grown. In responding to this interest, Corpoica and CIAT have the advantages of considerable scientific talent as well as experiment stations and research centers located on Colombia´s Caribbean coast. This is the country´s main cassava growing area, where successful CIAT-developed varieties such as Caiceli, Tai 8, Verónica, and Ginés have been jointly selected and evaluated by the two organizations.


Corpoica scientist Elvia Amparo Rosero and CIAT researcher Jorge Iván Lenis, at Turipaná in Colombia’s Córdoba Department. Photo: Hernán Ceballos, CIAT

“This optimal complementarity between Corpoica and CIAT offers Colombia a big advantage, as it enables us to obtain better results through constant knowledge sharing and synergy”, says Hernán Ceballos, a CIAT cassava plant breeder. At the beginning of this year, he took part in a meeting with Corpoica researchers to plan and coordinate the next cassava sowing, field activities, and harvest during the remainder of 2016 and into 2017.

Thanks to good team dynamics, cassava researchers are able to maintain a constant flow of so-called “segregating populations” for evaluation. Every year, CIAT makes thousands of crosses between elite lines, resulting in large quantities of cassava seed. Each seed is a potential variety. The challenge for Corpoica and CIAT is to determine through extensive evaluation which of the thousands of segregating materials show outstanding agronomic performance.

“Evaluation and selection are the most difficult and costly part of the process. The synergy and complementarity between CIAT and Corpoica make this work a lot easier, offering Colombia´s cassava growers significant benefits,” says Ceballos. “They get the best of each organization, receiving not only better varieties but better research overall, as a result of the opportunities we create for mutual capacity strengthening“.