Cassava is the third-most important food source in tropical countries, but it has one major problem: The roots and leaves of poorly processed cassava plants contain a substance that, when eaten, can trigger the production of cyanide.
A cassava plant usually reaches 3 to 4 feet in height, though some plants can grow up to 13 feet tall.
Cyanogens in cassava plants convert to cyanide when raw cassava is eaten or processed.
That’s a serious problem for the 500 million people who rely on cassava as their main source of calories, among them subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, said Richard Sayre, a professor of plant biology at Ohio State University. He and his colleague Dimuth Siritunga, a postdoctoral researcher in plant biology at the university, have created cyanogen-free cassava plants. A cyanogen is a substance that induces cyanide production.
Their study appeared in a recent issue of the journal Planta.
Holly Wagner | Ohio State University
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