Impact story Launch of first digital catalog of cassava varieties from Cauca, Colombia

The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD), the University of Valle, and the National University-Palmira Campus launched the first digital catalog of cassava varieties from Cauca, Colombia.

The Catalog of Cassava Varieties in Cauca, Colombia [in Spanish] is the result of the efforts led by foreign and Colombian scientists who have visited the Alliance’s headquarters in Palmira over the last 30 years, with the purpose of researching favorable features of fermented cassava starch in the baking industry to maintain the expansion and elasticity of bread in the absence of gluten. This work has led to the identification of 28 native and improved cassava varieties available in the region to meet the demand for its roots by cassava graters specialized in the production of bread-making starch.

The expansion capacity of bread-making cassava starch has been attributed to the traditional process of fermenting and drying starch. Today, thanks to the concerted effort of the Alliance’s researchers, their strategic partners, and farmers from Cauca, Colombia, we know that the baking capacity of starch is also determined by the genetic make-up of the varieties bred by CIAT scientists, using native varieties of this region as their basis. “One of the benefits of the catalog of cassava varieties from Cauca is that, for the first time, we show that the baking qualities of sour starch correspond mainly to genetic variation. This means that if a farmer wants to plant cassava for the baking industry, he will be able to identify the variety by having the catalog at his/her disposal”, said Luis Augusto Becerra, Leader of the Cassava Program at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

Both native and improved varieties by CIAT’s Cassava Program have been disseminated across the Cauca region, which shows their impact on strengthening the value chain, enhancing the supply of sour starch, which is crucial to make pandeyuca, pandebono, fritters, and other products of importance in the tropical diet. This knowledge provides an opportunity to diversify the quality of diets in other cassava producing and consuming areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Depending on the grower, this achievement makes cassava reach higher prices in Cauca, up to 60% above the market price of native cassava starch. In Colombia, the largest cassava producing area is located in the Atlantic Coast; however, as a result from CIAT’s research and technology transfer, the producers from Cauca have been able to make a good profitability.

Meanwhile, Jhon Ocampo, professor at the National University-Palmira Campus, said that “since pre-Columbian times, cassava has been grown up to an altitude of 2,100 m for livelihood and food security, used in cuisine (sweet cassava) and transforming its starch into flour for the baking industry (bitter cassava)”.

There are around 150 cassava graters in Cauca, which sell sour starch in the bakeries, but also to companies, such as Yupi, Pepsico, and Rosquillas Caleñas, among others.

On the other hand, Tatiana Ovalle, a scientist from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT added that “cassava graters need for the dough to grow considerably in the oven to obtain a better product, and these varieties have the advantage of producing good dry matter and are very good for baking, which has the potential to create a similar impact in Africa and Latin America, making an innovation in the baking industry”.

For each variety, the catalog contains the morphological characteristics, agronomic traits, area and yield reported by farmers, and additionally, a genetic code based on SNP molecular markers.

For more information, please contact: Luis Augusto Becerra, Leader of the Cassava Program at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.