Field level RNAi-mediated resistance to Cassava brown streak disease across multiple cropping cycles and diverse East African agro-ecological locations
Cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) presents a serious threat to cassava production in East and Central Africa. Currently, no cultivars with high levels of resistance to CBSD are available to farmers. Transgenic RNAi technology was employed to combat CBSD by fusing coat protein (CP) sequences from Ugandan cassava brown streak virus (UCBSV) and Cassava brown streak virus (CBSV) to create an inverted repeat construct (p5001) driven by the constitutive Cassava vein mosaic virus promoter. Twenty-five plant lines of cultivar TME 204 expressing varying levels of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) were established in confined field trials (CFTs) in Uganda and Kenya. Within an initial CFT at Namulonge, Uganda, non-transgenic TME 204 plants developed foliar and storage root CBSD incidences at 96–100% by 12 months after planting. In contrast, 16 of the 25 p5001 transgenic lines showed no foliar symptoms and had less than 8% of their storage roots symptomatic for CBSD.