International cassava improvement research at IITA was initiated in the early 1970s with a focus on developing high-yielding varieties with resistance to major pests and diseases. In addition to breeding for high yield and resistance to major pests and diseases, cassava research involved developing biological control and integrated pest management options to reduce losses due to insect pests. The development of improved varieties and their delivery to national programs for testing under specific local conditions during the late 1970s and 1980s has led to the successful release of hundreds of high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties for adoption by farmers. The new varieties combine enhanced cassava mosaic disease (CMD) tolerance with preferred postharvest characteristics, wider agroecological adaptation, and 50-100% higher yields even without the use of fertilizer.
It is widely recognized that raising agricultural production to the levels needed to feed an increasing world population requires bigger public investments in research and development and widespread adoption of new technologies. Funding for national and international agricultural research, however, has declined in recent years. In this situation, priority setting has become increasingly important for allocating scarce research resources among competing needs to achieve greater impacts.