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Global food security could be imperilled by the combined pressures from the effects of continually evolving climatic conditions, demographics and other socio-economic factors, the demands of the livestock, bioenergy and fibre industries for food-based substrates, the static or decreasing availability of natural resources for agriculture and the impracticality of increased use of economically and environmentally costly agricultural inputs. The optimal harnessing of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) in manners that translate their repertoire of hidden potentials into significantly enhanced crop productivities has been severally identified as crucial to achieving the required considerably significant increases in food production. The scope of the problems and the plausible means for addressing them compel the devising of novel and more efficient ways for deploying PGRFA in need-based crop improvement programmes. We posit a continuum approach to the management of PGRFA which links seamlessly the effective conservation and access to PGRFA through their use in developing superior and resilient crop varieties to the provision of their high-quality seeds and planting materials to the growers. To achieve the mainstreaming of this paradigm, we propose the institutionalization of overarching national PGRFA strategies that prescribe result-oriented action plans spanning above three components of the management of PGRFA for a country's priority crops. We also describe the strategy as a means for identifying and assigning responsibilities to critical stakeholders and providing for the governance of all aspects of PGRFA activities over specific time frames. Steps to developing and adopting a national PGRFA strategy are also suggested.
Commercial cassava production from true cassava seeds (TCS) appears to be a promising option for reducing or eliminating several of the production constraints associated with vegetative propagation. The most important contribution of TCS would be to reduce virus build-up in vegetative material and to resolve the problems of stake storage, low multiplication rate and the long growth cycle. Preliminary results suggest that the root yield potential of TCS is comparable with that of traditional vegetative propagation. Improvements in the capacity of true seed progenies to germinate and establish in the field can be achieved either genetically or through pre-planting seed treatments such as coating the seed with rock phosphate. Development of a successful TCS technology will require a multidisciplinary approach, involving basic studies in cassava breeding, physiology, agronomy, socio-economics and other fields.
Yield stability in cassava requires genotypes that produce well under the variable moisture conditions encountered during the growth cycle. Plant characteristics related to yield stability were studied in two cassava clones subjected to 105 days of water stress in a field drainage lysimeter. Stress conditions commenced 117 days after planting, and the plants were allowed to recover at the end of the stress period for the rest of the growth cycle. Water stress restricted the growth of leaves and stems, but root yields were increased or remained unaffected. Leaf water potential varied little with stress, but gas exchange rates were about 75% those of the control throughout the stress period in both cultivars. Under stress, the plants partially closed their stomata and extracted deep soil moisture slowly. A high yield in both wet and stressed environments was associated with high mean LAI, better leaf retention, and greater partitioning of shoot biomass into leaf formation.
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