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Cassava breeding: opportunities and challenges
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Although cassava is a major food crop, its scientific breeding began only recently compared with other crops. Significant progress has been achieved, particularly in Asia where cassava is used mainly for industrial processes and no major biotic constraints affect its productivity. Cassava breeding faces several limitations that need to be addressed. The heterozygous nature of the crop and parental lines used to generate new segregating progenies makes it difficult to identify parents with good breeding values. Breeding so far has been mainly based on a mass phenotypic recurrent selection. There is very little knowledge on the inheritance of traits of agronomic relevance. Several approaches have been taken to overcome the constraints in the current methodologies for the genetic improvement of cassava. Evaluations at early stages of selection allow for estimates of general combining ability effect or breeding values of parental lines. Inbreeding by sequential self-pollination facilitates the identification of useful recessive traits, either already present in the Manihot gene pool or induced by mutagenesis.