Pests and Diseases of Cassava
The following text is from Chapter 6 of FAO's Save and Grow Guide to Sustainable Cassava Production. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3278e.pdf
The first line of defence against crop pests and diseases is a healthy agro-ecosystem. Because synthetic insecticide, fungicide and herbicide disrupt the natural crop ecosystem balance, “SaveandGrow” seeks to minimizet their usetothe extent possible. It promotes instead integrated pest management (or IPM), a crop protection strategy that aims at enhancing the biological processes and crop-associated biodiversity that underpin production Crop losses to insects are kept to an acceptable minimum by deploying resistant varieties, conserving and encouraging biological control agents, and managing crop nutrient levels to reduce insect reproduction. Diseases are controlled through the use of clean planting material, crop rotations to suppress pathogens, and elimination of infected host plants. Effective weed management entails timely manual weeding and the use of surface mulches to suppress weed growth. When necessary, low-risk selective pesticides may be used for targeted control, in the right quantity and at the right time. Since all pesticides are potentially toxic to people and the environment, the products employed must be locally registered and approved, and carry clear instructions on their safe handling and use. Like all major crops, cassava is vulnerable to pests and diseases that can cause heavy yield losses. Their impact is most serious in Africa. Until recently, Asia had few serious pest and disease problems, but this may be changing as the crop is grown more intensively over larger areas and planted throughout the year for industrial processing. When pest or disease management measures become necessary, a strategy of non-chemical control should be considered before any decision is taken to use pesticide. Since cassava is a long-season crop, and exposed to pests and diseases for an extended period, pesticide is usually ineffective and hardly ever economic. That is why insecticide, for example, should be used only in short-term, localized applications in“hotspots” where the pest is first observed, and only when the pest is in its early stage of development. A range of non-chemical measures can help farmers reduce losses to pests and diseases while protecting the agro-ecosystem, planting material should be of varieties with tolerance or resistance to the most important cassava diseases and pests, and taken from mother plants that are free of disease symptoms and signs of attack. As an extra precaution, stakes can be soaked in hot water to kill pests or disease-causing organisms that might be present. In extreme cases,soaking stakes in a solution of fungicide and insecticide may be necessary. However, farmers who do so must have received training in the correct use of pesticide and, in selecting chemicals, should follow the recommendations of local plant protection specialists. Ecosystem-based practices, such as mulching, planting hedges and intercropping, can provide refuges for natural enemies of insect pests. Buildingupsoilorganicmatterincreasespest-regulating populations early in the cropping cycle. During crop growth, applying adequate amounts of mineral fertilizer or manure to the crop can enhance its resistance or tolerance. Insecticideshouldnotbeappliedtotheleavesofthegrowingcassava plant, as it may kill natural biological control agents that help to keep some major pests and diseases under control. For example, insecticide kills cassava mites’ natural enemies – phytoseiid mite predators – before killing the mites themselves. When natural predators are eliminated, there's usually an increase in the pest population, to which farmers may respond with increased use of pesticide, thereby perpetuating and worsening the cycle of pest damage. Biopesticides, such as extract of neem seed oil, are recommended for controlling whiteflies, mealybugs and variegated grasshoppers. Whitefly and mealybug numbers can also be reduced with sticky traps and by spraying plants with soapy water.
Control of major cassava diseases
Although the largest number of cassava diseases is found in Latin America and the Caribbean, the plant’s centre of origin, many of them are now also found in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Some have evolved separately in Africa and Asia, and have not yet arrived in the Americas.
Bacterial blight is one of the most widespread and serious of the cassava diseases. Caused by the proteobacterium Xanthomonas axonopodispv.manihoti, it is transmitted mainly by infected planting material or infected farm tools. It can also be spread from one plant to another by rain splash, and by the movement of people, machines or animals from infected fields to healthy fields. The bacterium infects first the leaves, which turn brown in large patches and eventually die, then the vascular tissues of the petioles and woody stems. The effect of bacterial blight on yields varies according to factors such as location, variety, weather patterns, planting time and the quality of planting material. In 1974, the disease caused losses of 50 percent in large plantations in Brazil. Bacterial blight can also threaten food security by reducing the production of cassava leaves, which are an important source of vegetable protein in Central Africa. Although potentially devastating, bacterial blight can be controlled effectively with“Save and Grow” practices.
Use varieties with good tolerance (many tolerant, high-yielding varieties are now available)
Use healthy planting material from disease-free plants or plants derived from meristem culture, rooted buds or shoots
Before planting, treat stakes by soaking them in hot water at 50°C for about 50 minutes. In extreme cases, and on the advice of local plant protection specialists, stakes may be soaked for 10 minutes in a solution of cupric fungicides
Plant at the end of rainy periods
After using tools in blight-infected plots, sterilize them in hot water or in a dilute solution of a disinfectant, such as sodium hypochlorite Ensure that the plants are adequately fertilized, especially with potassium
Uproot and burn any diseased plants and infected crop residues
Intercrop cassava with other species to reduce plant-to-plant dissemination of bacterial blight caused by rain-splash (fast growing crops such as maize will also reduce dissemination by wind)
To prevent the carry-over of the disease in the soil, rotate cassava with other crops, or leave the field in fallow for at least six months between cassava crops
Viral diseases are usually transmitted through the use of infected planting material. In addition, whiteflies – mainly of the species Bemisia tabaci– are vectors for viruses that cause cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD).
78 Save and Grow: Cassava
symptomsincludemisshapen leaves,chlorosis,mottling and mosaic.
Plants suffer stunting and general decline, and the more severe the
symptoms, the lower the root yield. In the mid-1990s, an unusually
severe form of CMD caused yield losses of 80 to 10p0ercent in parts
in traditional varieties
Cassava brown streak disease causes corky necrosis in roots that
for total crop failures in parts of Africa’s Great Lakes region. In 2011,
FAO warned that none of the cassava varieties grown by farmers in
the region seemed to be resistant to CBSD. Even plants produced
from clean planting material can become infected through the
transmissionofthevirusbyB. tabaciwhiteflies from infected plants
in neighbouring plots. Because the symptoms of CBSD may not be
evident on the cassava leaves or stems, farmers may not be aware
that their crops are infected until they harvest the roots. The lack of
above-ground symptoms makes the use of disease-infected planting
material more likely.
Two key recommendations for control of both CMD and CBSD
use of resistant or tolerant cultivars and virus-free planting material.
CBSD-free planting material in the Great Lakes region. January 2012
saw the release in the United Republic of Tanzania of four high-
yielding cassava varieties, bred through marker-assisted selection,
that are resistant to CMD and tolerant to CBSD.
A decade of intensive research at Kerala’s Central Tuber Crops
Research Institute identified a Nigerian variety and the wild species,
Manihot caerulescen,sas resistant to both the Indian and Sri Lankan
mosaic viruses. Researchers have used those two donor parents and
crossed them with high-yielding local varieties to produce several
promising lines resistant to CMD, one of which has become popular
in the industrial cassava belts of Tamil Nadu
Root rotsoccur mainly in poorly drained soils during very intense
rainy periods, and are common in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
They are caused by a wide range of fungal and bacterial pathogens,
Chapter 6: ests and Diseases79
and lead to loss of leaves, dieback in stems and shoots, and root
Farm tools and plant residues left in fields post-harvest are often
contaminated with disease-causing fungi and are sources of spores
that infect new plants.
In trials in Colombia’s Amazon region, smallholder farmers
eliminated cassava root rot using simple “Save and Grow” practices.
They planted stakes taken only from healthy mother plants, used a
mixture of ashes and dry leaves as a soil amendment and fertilizer
during planting, and intercropped cassava with cowpeas 3. Other
cultural practices that control root rots include:
▯ If no disease-free planting material is available, immerse stakes in
hot water for around 50minutes
▯ Plant on light-textured, moderately deep soils with good internal
▯ Improve drainage by reducing tillage and using surface mulches
▯ Rotate cassava with cereals or grasses
▯ Uproot and burn diseased plants
An effective biological control for root rot is immersion of the
stakes in a suspension ofTrichoderma viri, a fast-growing species
fungi3, . In experiments in Nigeria, two groups of stored cassava
inoculated with a culture filtrate ofT. viride. Over a period of three
weeks, the group withouTt. viridesufferedanincidenceofrotranging
from 20 to 44percent; in the group inoculated with the biocontrol
agent, there was a drastic reduction in the range and number of the
after three weeks. Inoculation with T. viriderendered unnecessary
repeated spraying with synthetic fungicide
Control of major insect pests
round 200species of arthropod pests have been reported on
A cassava. Of these, some are specific to the crop, while others
attack other crops as well. The greatest diversity of cassava insect
80 Save and Grow: Cassava
in Latin America – many harmful insects are kept under control by
predatorsandparasitoids,whichhaveco-evolvedoverthecenturies 4, .
Whitefliesfeed directly on young cassava leaves and are also a virus
vector, making them probably the most damaging insect pest in all
beenreportedoncassava,includinA gleurotrachelus social,isA.aepim
andTrialeurodes variabili,swhich cause most damage. The whitefly
Bemisia tabac,i the vector of cassava mosaic disease and cassava
brown streak disease, is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa and
now in India. It is also present in Latin America, but does not feed on
cassava.AnotherspeciesA , leurodicus disperse,sorspirallingwhitefly,
Bemisia tabacitransmits isfoundinIndia,LaoPDRandThailand,aswellasinAfrica,andcan
serious viral diseases to cause serious damage and yield losses.
cassava plants Although many farmers use insecticides to control whitefly
natural enemies, which include many
Figure28Meannumberofadultwhiteflies species of parasitoids, predators and
Cassava found that intercropping cassava with
+maize maize and cowpeas was associated
30 +cowpea with a drop of 50percent in the adult
whitefly population and a 20 percent
reduction in the incidence of cassava
mosaic disease (Figure 28) . Research
20 in Colombia suggests that intercrop -
ping with cowpeas depresses cassava
lef growth, making the plant less a- p
petizing to whiteflies. Less vigorous
10 growth did not affect root yields – in
as 65percent in the monoculture .
0 Other recommended control me- a
4 6 8 10 12 14 16 sures include imposing a “closed se -a
Chapter 6P : ests and Diseases81
development cycle (although, this may not be as effective with some
species, such asB. tabaci, that have multiple hosts). Recent trials in
field may reduce herbivore load and increase yields in zones subject
to heavyT. variabilisattacks1.
Mealybugsfeed on cassava stems, petioles and leaves, and inject a
toxin that causes leaf curling, slow shoot growth and eventual leaf
withering.Yieldlossininfestedplantscanbeupto60percent of the
roots and 100percent of the leaves. Of the approximately 1s 5pecies
of mealybug that attack cassava plants, two – Phenacoccus herrini
andP. manihoti– cause major damage to cassava in Latin America.
In the early 1970s,P. manihotiwas accidentally introduced into
sub-Saharan Africa, where it had no natural enemies, and spread Mealybugs have
rapidlythroughouttheregion’scassavagrowingareas.Themealybug devastated cassava fields
population was brought under control by the introduction of several in sub-Saharan Africa
natural enemies from South America. The most effective predator and Thailand
wasAnagyrus lopez,ia tiny wasp: the female wasp lays its eggs in the
mealybug and the growing larvae kill their host.
P. manihotiwas recently introduced inadvertently into Thailand
May 2009, it affected 230000ha of Thai cassava-growing land. The
outbreak devastated the 2010 cassava harvest, which fell to 22m.7il
liontonnes, from a record of 30milliontonnes the year before.
outbreak provides an excellent example of the effectiveness of b- iologi
cal pest control. To avoid new outbreaks, farmers were advised not
to plant cassava in the late rainy season and early dry season, and to
soak stakes in an insecticide solution before planting. They were also
warned to avoid spraying insecticides on the plants themselves –
Natural enemy of cassava
experience had shown that spraying provoked the pest’s resurgence. mealybugs – the tiny
Tocontroloutbreaks,researchersidentifiedseveralnativepredators waspAnagyrus lopezi
mealybug population. They suggested the useA ofagyrus lopez,ithe
wasp that had successfully controlled the mealybug in Africa in the
1970s. In September 2009, some 500 adults of A. lopeziwerehand-
carried to Bangkok from IITA’s Biological Control Centre in Benin.
After quarantine laboratory tests and field trials, the government
2012, almost 3millionpairsofA. lopezihadbeenreleasedthroughout
82 Save and Grow: Cassava Figure29 Area infested by cassava mealy bugin Thailand, 2009-2012(‘000ha) 250 1 Anagyrus wasp importedfrom Benin 200 4 2 Waspundergoestrials 3 Waspreleasedin25villages 3 4 Waspreleasednationwide 150 1 100 50 2 0 14May 8 De 15Jan 24Dec Jan 9 De15 Jan 30 Jul 2009 2010 2011 2012 Source:Rojanaridpiched,C.,Thongnak,N., Jeerapong, L.&Winotai, A.2012. Rapidresponsetotheaccidentalintroductionofthemealybug, Phenacoccusmanihoti, inThailand. FactsheetpreparedforFAO.(mimeo) the infested cassava area.The biological control campaign washighly successful – the infested area was reduced to 17 0000ha in 2010, to 64000ha in 2011 and just 3300ha in 2012 (Figure 29) 1. Current recommendations for the control of cassava mealybugs include: Conserve the population of natural enemies by not spraying ▯ synthetic pesticide ▯ If necessary, treat planting material with a solution using a locally registered and recommended insecticide ▯ Monitor cassava plantations every 2w toe4kstodetectfocalpoints of infestation ▯ Remove and burn the infested parts of plants Avoid the movement of planting material from one region to another ▯ ▯ Minimize the movement of planting material from infested to non-infested fields Cassava mitesare an important insect pest in all producing regions. The cassava green mite,Mononychellus tanajoa , causes the most damagetocassavainLatinAmericaandsub-SaharanAfrica,especially
Chapter 6P: ests and Diseases83
of young leaves, which become white-yellow, deformed and smaller.
The mite can cause root yield losses of up to 80 percent. Another
China and Viet Nam. Although it may not be as aggressive a Ms .
tanajoa, it could cause serious damage owing to the lack of primary
The introduction of green mites on cassava imported from Latin
bring the mite under control, entomologists at IITA and CIAT first
identified its area of origin in South America and its natural enemy,
their diffusion was very slow.
Thesolutionwasanotherpredatorymite T,etranychus arip,owhich
spread rapidly in African farmer’s fields and did not have a voracious
appetite for green mites – an advantage, since it allows enough green
mites to survive and prevent the predatory mites from dying out. As Other natural enemies
of insect pests worth
wellasreducingthedamagecausedbygreenmitesthroughoutAfrica, protecting: Coccinellidae
T. aripo has contributed substantially to the science of biological beetles (top) and the
control and to the knowledge of how mites work in complex food African lacewing
Many species of red spider mites have been observed on cassava
in all three cassava-producing regions. It is the most prevalent dry
season pest of cassava in Asia, where the most common species are
Tetranychus urticaeand T. kanzawai.Yield losses range from 18 to
almost50percent. Red mites feed mainly on the underside of leaves,
but attack old leaves at the base of the plant, causing considerable
webbing. Further research is urgently needed to identify the most
effective natural enemies of red spider mites.
Current recommendations for the control of cassava mites include:
▯ Plant resistant or tolerant varieties, if available
▯ Promote good establishment by planting early in the wet season
▯ Apply adequate and well-balanced fertilizers to improve plant vigour
▯ Apply foliar sprays with water at high pressure to reduce mite
▯ Strictly enforce quarantine regulations
84 Save and Grow: Cassava
Other important peststhat are found only in Latin America are
the cassava hornworm, burrowing bugs, leaf-cutter ants, shoot flies
and fruit flies. Great care needs to be taken to avoid accidentally
they have no natural enemies and could, therefore, do great damage.
A newly identified menace in Asia – found in Cambodia, Lao PDR,
the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam – is witches’ broom disease,
which is thought to be caused by a phytoplasma.
Some cassava pests and diseases have also been accidentally
introduced on other plant species closely related to cassava, such
as Jatrophacurcas , which is used as “living fences” in Asia and has
become popular recently as a source of biofuel. Special care must be
countries, and largeJatrophaplantations should not be located in
cassava growing regions.
C That, combined with the wide spacing between planted stakes,
gives weeds a chance to emerge and compete for sunlight, water and
In the first four months after planting, cassava can easily be
broad-leaf weeds, which include many leguminous plants. In East
Africa, weeds are often a more serious production constrain17than
insect pests or diseases and can reduce yields by about 50percent
In Nigeria, farmers spend more time on weeding than on any other
aspect of crop production.
Once the cassava canopy has closed, it will shade out most weeds
and keep the field almost completely weed-free9,. Six to eight
cially during the dry season), weeds may reappear, but this generally
post-harvest rains are heavy.
Chapter 6P : ests and Diseases 85
against weeds. While cultural controls may not be 10p 0ercent effec-
tive, they do help in reducing weed competition, and thus the need
for mechanical or chemical weeding . Cultural control begins with
early growth and tolerance or resistance to important diseases and
applied in short bands next to the planted stakes, can stimulate early
crop growth and rapid canopy closure. Planting in the dry season
under drip irrigation can also encourage the growth of cassava but
not that of weeds.
To prevent weed emergence, the soil should be covered with a
thick layer of mulch, such as rice straw or maize residues. Another
“Save and Grow” recommendation is to intercrop cassava with fast-
growing plants, such as melons, squash,
pumpkins, common beans, groundnuts, yield280daysafterplanting,Colombia(t/ha)
soybeans, mungbeans and cowpeas. As 25
those are short-duration crops, they can be
harvested after about 3 to 4 months, when
the cassava canopy closes and weeds are
shaded out. While intercrops may reduce 15
cassava root yields, they markedly reduce
herbicides. A study in Nigeria of legume 5
18 0 1 2 3 4 Chemical
suppress weeds . Numberofhandweedings control
Many smallholder cassava farmers use Source:AnnexTable6.1
mechanical control measures. Most co -m
monly, they remove weeds by hoeing, starting about 15 days after
planting, or after emergence if the cassava is planted horizontally.
30, 60 and 120 days after planting, cassava root yields were 1tonnes
per ha, only 8percent less than those obtained when weeds were
controlled with herbicides. When weeds were not controlled at all,
Weeds growing between the rows can also be incorporated
into the soil using an oxen- or buffalo-drawn cultivator or, where
86 Save and Grow: Cassava
available, tractors equipped with cultivator blades. In the absence
of both machinery and draught animals, farmers in Thailand use
a manually-drawn cultivator, known as a “poor man’s plough”. In
VietNam, farmers use a contraption made from the handlebar and
front wheel of a bicycle, with a cultivator blade attached behind the
between the plants in the row.
On larger farms or when labour is unavailabl or is too expensive,
be washed away to contaminate ground and surface water. Farmers
need to exercise care in the choice of the herbicide to be used and
follow the advice of local plant protection specialists.
Pre-emergence herbicides do not kill existing weeds. Instead, they
selective for cassava can be applied over the vertically planted stakes
without affecting cassava sprouting or yield.
field almost weed-free for 6 to 8 weeks after planting. Farmers may
and one the broad-leaf weeds. A lower dosage is recommended on
light-textured soils, while a higher dosage may be needed in heavy
is grown in association with other crops, because the pre-emergence
herbicides normally used for cassava may harm the intercrop.
At about two months after planting, weeds may need to be
controlled again to reduce competition with cassava. This is usually
done by hoeing or using an animal- or tractor-mounted cultivator,
of canopy closure. When most of the weeds are grassy species, it is
also possible to apply a selective post-emergence herbicide, which
kills grasses but does not affect the cassava plant. Post-emergence
herbicides can be used about 4 tom 5onths after planting, when
some bottom leaves start to drop off. They should only be applied on
the cassava stems or leaves.