Cassava Programme

An Overview

Cassava Programme was one of the first three crop commodity programmes established in May 1973 when National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, was known as Federal Agricultural Research and Training Station, Umudike. The mission of Cassava Programme has been to improve cassava as a crop and its cultivation for sustainable food production and income generation.The main thrust of the programme is cassava varietal development mainly through breeding, which is complemented by other disciplines for the selection of the desirable varieties. Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is animportant food and cash crop in





O.N. Eke-Okoro (Ph.D)

Assistant Director/ Coordinator

 most of Sub-saharan Africa. Latest statistics show that Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava roots with an annual production of about 45million metric tonnes. Besides satisfying the dietary needs of the greater part of the population of Nigeria, and indeed most of Sub-saharan Africa, there is now a high demand for the roots as raw material for the manufacture of livestock feed,  biofuel  pharmaceutical and textile industries. The Federal Government effort at achieving a 10% substitution of cassava flour for wheat flour in the bakery and allied industries is expected to further expand local production. The focus of research activities on cassava is the development of technologies for a sustainable cultivation of the crop through breeding, plant health, agronomy, mechanization and trade.


The breeding objectives include:

i.High fresh root yield, dry matter and starch contents.

ii.Resistance to the major cassava pests- cassava mealybugs (CM), cassava green mite (CGM) and diseases- cassava mosaic disease (CMD), cassava bacterial blight (CBB) and cassava anthracnose disease (CAD).

iii.Compatibility with intercrops with legumes, cereals, vegetables and other crops in intercropping systems.

iv.Acceptable culinary qualities.                           

v.Extended in-ground storage

vi.Reduced cyanogenic potential and

vii.Early maturity (8–10 months after planting)

viii. Carotene based varietiess




 A multi-disciplinary approach compliments the breeding process in cassava varietal development:

i.Agronomy with focus on production packages and systems of cassava.

ii.Plant Protection for the screening of cassava varieties for resistance to, and cultural control measures against, pests and diseases.

iii.Biochemistry for proximate analysis of roots and product quality


Collaborating Institutions:

1.  International Institute of tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria: a major collaborating institution in the development of improved cassava varieties, pre-emptive management of a severe form of CMD, Cassava Enterprise Development, Harvest plus as it relates to beta carotene in cassava roots and Integrated Pest Management of whitefly-transmitted viruses of cassava and sweetpotato.

2. Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDPSC), St. Louis, Missouri, USA in the area of genetic engineering to elevate resistance in farmers’ preferred

cassava varieties but which are highly susceptible to CMD, and screening of farmers’ preferred varieties for possible bioengineering to improve the

protein content of cassava tubers, to reduce cyanogenic potential and to delay the deterioration of cassava tubers after harvest.

3.Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia with focus on the use of simple low cost marker technology to pyramid useful genes

for delayed post harvest physiological deterioration of cassava in addition to maintaining resistance to the major pests and diseases.

4. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria for the conduct of research on the use of radiation to produce desirable mutants of cassava varieties.

5. Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) funding drought tolerant cassava improvement and availability in Nigeria.

6. Generation Challenge Programme(GCP) providing funds for many projects on cassava improvement in Africa including NRCRI, Nigeria.

7. Raw Material Research Development Council, Abuja, Nigeria on research for early maturing (8–10 months after planting) cassava varieties

8. National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology Abuja Nigeria



v  Combined efforts of NRCRI and IITA had led to the release of 29 improved cassava varieties to farmers in Nigeria.  Six of these improved varieties were suitable for harvesting at 10 months of age instead of 12 months without significant loss in dry matter, starch and gari yields. The cultivation of these improved cassava varieties by farmers in Nigeria has enhanced the position of Nigeria as the world-leading producer of cassava with production output of (203.7MT) and yield of 45million mt.

v  Thirty-two early bulking clones have been developed as a step towards the development of early maturing cassava varieties.

v  Application of agrolyzer as a supplement to fertilizer NPK fertilizer at 15kg/ha and 10kg/ha to poultry manure to enhance root yield and sustainability of yield.

v  Development of  appropriate agronomy practices for cassava cultivation. These include appropriate plant spacing in sole and in intercropping, the use of appropriate stem cuttings as planting material, appropriate fertilizer regimes, and weed management

v  Integrated control of cassava mealybugs and green mites through the joint efforts of IITA and NRCRI.


v  Development of cultural control measures for pests and diseases of cassava such as termites, cassava green mites and CMD.

v  Identification of transgenic cassava plants with elevated resistance to CMD, Vit A, Fe and Zn under screen house condition at DDPSC, U.S.A. The plants are undergoing

v  testing under field condition in Nigeria.


v  A molecular biology laboratory established through the joint efforts of NRCRI and CIAT is now operational. The laboratory is to provide assistance in cassava breeding through marker-aided selection.


v  Exotic germplasm with desirable traits such as PPD, protein, beta-carotene etc, has been introduced from the center of primary diversity to NRCRI for introgression and evaluation.


v  In assisting farmers to meet the challenges of the Presidential Initiative on Cassava, NRCRI through the Cassava programme provided 4,481 bundles of cassava stem cuttings to farmers free of charge. In collaboration with NRCRI, IITA through the Integrated Cassava Project also made available 2,273 bundles of stem cuttings to farmers free of charge. The 6,754 bundles of the stem cuttings were sufficient to plant 112 hectares.


v  Research findings in Cassava Programme have confirmed that for now, standard neem plant extract is the best local substitute for chemical fungicides in the rapid multiplication of cassava in Nigeria.


Present Research Interest

v  Increasing the protein content of cassava tubers

v  Selection for high beta carotene content in cassava tubers

v  Delay in post-harvest deterioration of cassava tubers

v  Development of early maturing varieties

v  Screening for CMD, CBB, CMB etc

v  Selection for drought tolerant varieties

v  Field screening of transgenic cassava for Fe, Vit A and Zn.

v  Development of appropriate soil fertility amendments for root and stem productions.

v  Encouragement of cassava-based industries for starch, flour, ethanol etc.




List of Scientists

Dr. ON. Eke-Okoro (Agronomist)-

Dr. CN. Egesi (Breeder/Geneticist);

Dr. EO. Okogbenin, (Breeder/Geneticist)

Dr. Joe Onyeka, (Pathologist)

Mr. D.N. Njoku, (Breeder/Geneticist);

Mrs.NJ. Amanze, (Breeder/Geneticist)

Mrs. SC.Njoku, (Agronomist)

Mr. CO. Nwadili, (Pathologist),

Mr. LI. Chukwu, (Soil Scientist)

Mr.IN.Onyekwere, (Soil pedologist)

Mrs.MC. Ikejiofor, (Agric. Engineer)

Miss. F. Ewa. (Breeding/Genetist)

Mr. C. Ohuopia (Admin. Sec).

Collaborators- 7 officers.


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