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Cassava(Manihot esculenta Crantz)
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a perennial shrub and a tuberous root crop and is a native of Tropical America. It is an erect perennial shrub, with lobed leaves and lanceolate-obvate leaflets. It is the most important tuberous root crop, the fourth most important source of food calories in the tropics. An estimated 700 million people obtain more than 500 cal /day from cassava and more than 500 million people consume more than 100 cal/day in the form of cassava throughout the tropics. Cassava yields 1.05 MJ of energy/ha/day which is higher than that of maize (0.84), rice (0.74) and wheat (0.46). The high yield of calorie per hectare, adaptability to very poor soil conditions, relative resistance to diseases and flexibility of harvesting time are the major advantages of this starchy crop compared to many other crops.
A cassava plant Tuberous root, the economic plant part of cassava
In India, cassava is consumed as a secondary staple along with the staple, rice and many rural poor consume it as the staple in different forms of preparations. Sago and starch are also manufactured from cassava roots by nearly 1200 factories. Sago is consumed as a breakfast food, or is used for the preparation of wafers. It is also an ingredient in payasam (a sweet semi-solid food preparation served during auspicious occasions like weddings, festivals etc). The states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are the largest consumers of sago in India. Although cassava-based products were exported by India to European countries from 1958 to 1964, these exports stopped subsequently when internal demand increased. In 1996, India exported 31,000 tonnes of cassava products earning 141.30 million Indian rupee (INR) of foreign exchange.
Cassava with chilly chutney Cassava with fish curry Cassava chips fried in oil

The crop was introduced from Brazil into India by the Portuguese during the 17th century. The popularization of the crop in the state of Kerala was attributed to the famous King of erstwhile Travancore state (a part of Kerala state), Sri Visakham Thirunal who introduced popular varieties from Malaya and other places. During the Second World War (1939-1945), it was cassava that saved the people of this region from famine when import of rice from Myanmar was stopped. Since its introduction, the crop has been relished by the people of Kerala state and has attained the status of a secondary staple. Though cassava cultivation has a history of more than 300 years in India, it spread from Kerala to the adjacent states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh only about 60 years ago. In these latter two states, it is grown on comparatively bigger farms, mostly for the industrial production of starch, sago and other products. In Tamil Nadu cassava cultivation began in 1943, while in Andhra Pradesh it started in 1965, especially in East Godavari district.
 
Field views of large cassava farms in Andhra Pradesh (East Godavari), Tamil Nadu (Salem) and Maharashtra (Nashik) states respectively
 
In India, the first improved cultivars of cassava were released by Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI) in 1971 and since then a total of 14 high yielding cultivars have so far been released which is one of the major reasons for yield increase from 15 t/ha in 1971 to 34 t/ha in 2010. In this region, almost three-fourth area is under high yielding varieties such as H-165 and H-226 and one-fourth is under local varieties and the introduced popular variety, M-4. Introduction and popularization of the new high yielding varieties, irrigation and soil fertility management practices have helped in increasing the productivity of cassava. The present productivity of cassava is still far below the potential yield of 80-100 t/ha produced under experimental conditions. In India, cassava is cultivated in an area of 242000 hectares and more than 90 per cent of the area is concentrated in the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Central Tuber Crops Research Institute
Sreekariyam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala - 17