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Improving Thailand's Cassava Cultivation

Jülich plant researchers are partners in the development of a sustainable bioeconomy

Jülich, 3 February 2017 – A new project of Jülich's Institute of Plant Sciences officially launched at the beginning of the year. Together with the Thai National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), and the Department of Agriculture (Thai Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives), the scientists are investigating how the productivity of cassava cultivation in Thailand can be increased. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is providing € 805,000 in funding for the three-year project, and the Thai partners are contributing € 810,000.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz, also known as manioc or yuca) is one of Thailand's most important crop plants with an annual production of roughly 25 million tonnes. The starchy roots of cassava are mainly used for the production of starch, but also for sweeteners and in the food industry. Since Thailand has to import a major part of its energy, the plant has recently been increasingly used for the production of industrial starch and bioethanol for fuels.

One aim of the new German–Thai project is to better understand how the storage roots of cassava develop and what genes are responsible for this. "Using this knowledge, we can promote the formation of the storage roots, increasing the yield and contributing to a sustainable bioeconomy in Thailand," explains Jülich plant researcher Dr. Tobias Wojciechowski, who coordinates the collaboration. In Africa, it takes around 12–15 months for cassava to be ready for harvesting. The plan is to reduce the cultivation period in Thailand and achieve a yield of up to 60 tonnes of storage roots per hectare under cultivation.

For this purpose, the various root systems are described by phenotyping the development of the cassava root on site in the fields using techniques developed at Jülich. In a next step, the researchers at the Institute of Plant Sciences will use the data collected to try and identify the genes responsible for the faster formation of the storage roots in some varieties. Cassava varieties will then be bred that produce greater yields in relatively short periods of time without using more land.

The project is part of an agreement concluded between NSTDA and the Institute of Plant Sciences during last year's Thai–German Bioeconomy Conference in Bangkok. The aim is to expand collaboration in the areas of the bioeconomy and plant phenotyping.

Geerntete ManiokwurzelnCassava is one of the most important crop plants in Thailand, with roughly 25 million tonnes being produced there every year.
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

Institute of Bio- and Geosciences – Plant Sciences (IBG-2)

About the Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC)

Contacts:

Dr. Tobias Wojciechowski
Institute of Bio- and Geosciences – Plant Sciences (IBG-2)
Tel: +49 2461 61-96383
Email: tobiaswoj@fz-juelich.de

Dr. Yindee Chanvivattana
Plant Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology Laboratory (PMGB), BIOTEC, NSTDA
Tel: +662-5646700 ext 3240
E-Mail: yindee@biotec.or.th

Press contact:

Erhard Zeiss, press officer
Tel: +49 2461 61-1841
Email: e.zeiss@fz-juelich.de


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