As part of the project, the team partnered with the National Root Crops Research Institute to conduct the first government-approved confined field trial of a genetically modified crop in Nigeria. The study used cassava plantlets propagated and shipped from Cahoon’s lab at Nebraska.
The team was successful in its attempt of increasing beta-carotene in cassava roots. They found that the biofortification process actually reduced the starch content in the roots. Provitamin A-enhanced potatoes developed by the researchers using a similar strategy also reduced the starch content. The study also identified key genes that are likely targets for minimizing starch reductions in future biofortification efforts.
“Vitamin A deficiency continues to plague large portions of sub-Saharan Africa and has been estimated to affect the health of nearly 50 percent of preschool children in this region. Beta-carotene-enriched cassava offers one solution to this problem. “Cassava storage roots that have longer shelf life could provide additional income to farmers and allow them to purchase more nutritionally diverse foods. This would have a major impact on addressing malnutrition problems in sub-Saharan Africa.”
The results of the study were published in Plant Biotechnology Journal: Provitamin A biofortification of cassava enhances shelf life but reduces dry matter content of storage roots due to altered carbon partitioning into starch
Funding for the project was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USDA-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and the National Science Foundation.