Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Drought adversely affects tuber development and nutritional quality of the staple crop cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz)

Rebecca Vandegeer A , Rebecca E. Miller A B , Melissa Bain A , Roslyn M. Gleadow A and Timothy R. Cavagnaro A B C

A School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia.

B The Australian Centre for Biodiversity, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: timothy.cavagnaro@monash.edu

Functional Plant Biology 40(2) 195-200 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP12179
Submitted: 20 June 2012  Accepted: 13 September 2012   Published: 29 October 2012

Abstract

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is the staple food source for over 850 million people worldwide. Cassava contains cyanogenic glucosides and can be toxic to humans, causing paralysing diseases such as konzo, and even death if not properly processed. Konzo epidemics are often associated with times of drought. This may be due to a greater reliance on cassava as it is drought tolerant, but it may also be due to an increase in cyanogenic glucosides. Episodic droughts are forecast to become more common in many cassava-growing regions. We therefore sought to quantify the effect of water-stress on both yield and cyanogenic glucoside concentration (CNc) in the developing tubers of cassava. Five-month-old plants were grown in a glasshouse and either well watered or droughted for 28 days. A subset of droughted plants was re-watered half way through the experiment. Droughted plants had 45% fewer leaves and lower tuber yield, by 83%, compared with well-watered plants. CNc was 2.9-fold higher in the young leaves of droughted plants, whereas CNc in tubers from droughted plants was 4-fold greater than in tubers from well-watered plants. Re-watered plants had a similar biomass to control plants, and lower CNc than droughted plants. These findings highlight the important link between food quality and episodic drought.

Additional keywords: chemical defence, climate change, cyanide, cyanogenesis, cyanogenic glycosides, food security, konzo, linamarin, manioc, water stress.


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