Cassava’s huge potential as 21st Century crop

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Farmers check their cassava crop in Chad

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO, is offering a sustainable farming model to meet increased demand for cassava.

Save and Grow, an environmentally-friendly farming model promoted by FAO, can sustainably increase cassava yields by up to 400 percent and help turn this staple from a poor people’s food into a 21st Century crop, the food agency says.

A newly-published field guide detailing Save and Grow’s applications to cassava noted that global cassava output has increased by 60 percent since 2000 and is set to accelerate further over the current decade as policymakers recognize its huge potential.

But using the inputs-intensive approach pioneered during the Green Revolution risks causing further damage to the natural resource base and increasing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

The solution, says FAO, lies in the Save and Grow approach which achieves higher yields with improved soil health rather than with the heavy use of chemical inputs. Save and Grow minimizes soil disturbance caused by conventional tillage such as ploughing, and recommends maintaining a protective cover of vegetation over soil.

Instead of the single crop normally seen in intensive farming systems, Save and Grow encourages mixed cropping and crops rotation, and predicates integrated pest management, which uses disease-free planting material and pests’ natural enemies to keep harmful insects down, instead of chemical pesticides.

The approach has yielded spectacular results in trials organized in Viet Nam, where farmers using the improved technologies and practices boosted cassava yields from 8.5 tonnes to 36 tonnes — an increase of more than 400 percent.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’37″

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