Cassava: a basic energy source in the tropics

Science  19 Nov 1982:
Vol. 218, Issue 4574, pp. 755-762
DOI: 10.1126/science.7134971


Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is the fourth most important source of food energy in the tropics. More than two-thirds of the total production of this crop is used as food for humans, with lesser amounts being used for animal feed and industrial purposes. The ingestion of high levels of cassava has been associated with chronic cyanide toxicity in parts of Africa, but this appears to be related to inadequate processing of the root and poor overall nutrition. Although cassava is not a complete food it is important as a cheap source of calories. The crop has a high yield potential under good conditions, and compared to other crops it excels under suboptimal conditions, thus offering the possibility of using marginal land to increase total agricultural production. Breeding programs that bring together germ plasm from different regions coupled with improved agronomic practices can markedly increase yields. The future demand for fresh cassava may depend on improved storage methods. The markets for cassava as a substitute for cereal flours in bakery products and as an energy source in animal feed rations are likely to expand. The use of cassava as a source of ethanol for fuel depends on finding an efficient source of energy for distillation or an improved method of separating ethanol from water.