Cassava was supposed to help us survive climate change, and now it’s dying
Climate change is fixing to make potatoes and wheat and rice plants less productive, but we were supposed to be able to count on cassava. If you’re not familiar, cassava is that tree-branch-looking thing that usually gets grouped near the hot peppers, tomatillos, and other ingredients you might need for “Mexican night” in higher-end grocery stores. This one:
It can double for potatoes as a staple crop, and it’s less sensitive to heat changes. But now, even this alt-tuber is being snatched away from us. The Associated Press reports that cassava crops are dying:
Scientists say a disease destroying entire crops of cassava has spread out of East Africa into the heart of the continent, is attacking plants as far south as Angola and threatens to move west into Nigeria, the world’s biggest producer of the potatolike root. … Africa, which suffers debilitating food shortages, is losing 50 million tons a year of cassava to the cassava brown streak disease, said Claude Fauquet, a scientist and co-founder of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century.
This isn’t just a problem for people in the climate-changed future. Millions of people in Africa depend on cassava right now. But it’s also an indicator of troubled times ahead for other continents. The fewer climate-change ready crops we’ve got, the more likely we are to end up eating twice-baked bananas.