Cyanide crop screening

A fast and efficient way to look for less toxic forms of common African crop plants, such as cassava, is being developed by European scientists. Some plants naturally release hydrogen cyanide when damaged so finding a way to quickly screen novel strains of crop plants that might produce less toxin is important in the search for ways to cope with food security in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical regions. Many food crops, such as cassava, also release cyanide and so require complicated preparation and cooking before they are rendered edible. Now, researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, working with colleagues in Denmark, have developed a high-throughput screening method that can identify strains of the model legume, Lotus japonicas that are deficient in the biochemical apparatus of cyanogenesis. The finding could point to ways to engineer or breed novel strains of crop plants that are less cyanogenic.