- Whitefly-borne disease destroys over $1 billion worth of cassava
- Fresh outbreak inflicts dire humanitarian crises
- Scientists turn to gene-sequencing technology to fight disease
But the cassava has no defense against a tiny insect that is decimating crops across East Africa, with dire economic and humanitarian consequences.
The whitefly carries two viruses that together destroy over $1 billion
worth of cassava in Sub-Saharan Africa each year. Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) is the more established threat and does most of the damage. But scientists are even more alarmed by an outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) - dubbed the "Ebola of plants."
The disease is highly infectious, difficult to detect, and it mutates rapidly into new strains. Farmers often discover the tell-tale brown streaks only after their entire crop has been destroyed.
The outbreak could have a catastrophic impact if it continues to spread. But local specialists are working with an international coalition and state-of-the-art technology to defeat it.