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Plant tissue analysis as a tool for predicting fertiliser needs for low cyanogenic glucoside levels in cassava roots: an assessment of its possible use

The use of plant tissue analysis as a tool for attaining low cyanogenic glucoside levels in cassava roots, has hardly been investigated. Just as the quality of crops is improved through the use of plant tissue analysis, the same can probably be done to consistently attain the lowest possible cyanogenic glucoside levels in cassava roots. High levels of cyanogenic glucosides in consumed fresh cassava roots or in their products have the potential of causing cyanide intoxication, hence the need to lower them. An experiment was thus conducted to assess the occurrence of meaningful relationships between plant nutritional status and cyanogenic glucoside production in cassava roots. Total hydrogen cyanide (HCN) levels in cassava roots were used to assess cyanogenic glucoside production. Using NPK fertiliser application to induce changes in plant nutritional status, the main objective of the study was investigated using the following sub-objectives; (1) to determine the effects of increased NPK fertiliser application on cassava root HCN levels; (2) and to show the occurrence of relationships between changes in nutrient levels in plant ‘indicator tissue’ and HCN levels in cassava roots. The study was a field experiment laid out as a split-plot in a randomized complete block design with three replicates. It was repeated in two consecutive years, with soil nutrient deficiencies only being corrected in the second year. The varieties Salanga, Kalinda, Supa and Kiroba were used in the experiment, while the NPK fertiliser treatments included; a control with no fertiliser applied; a moderate NPK treatment (50 kg N + 10 kg P + 50 kg K /ha); and a high NPK treatment (100 kg N + 25 kg P + 100 kg K /ha). A potassium only treatment (50 kg K/ha) was also included, but mainly for comparison. The root HCN levels of Salanga, Kalinda and Kiroba were significantly influenced by NPK fertiliser application in at least one of the two field experiments, while those of Supa remained uninfluenced. Changes in plant nutritional status in response to fertiliser application were thus shown to influence cyanogenic glucoside production. The results of the multiple linear regression analysis for the first field experiment, generally showed that the root HCN levels of some cassava varieties could have been ‘reduced’ by decreasing concentrations of nitrogen, potassium and magnesium in plants, or by improving plant calcium concentrations along with NPK fertiliser application. However, in the second field experiment (with corrected soil nutrient deficiencies) the regression analysis generally showed that the root HCN levels of some cassava varieties could have been ‘reduced’ by improving either one or a combination of the nutrients phosphorous, zinc and potassium in plants along with NPK fertiliser application. Although the results obtained in the two experiments had been contradicting due to slight differences in how they were conducted, the study had nonetheless demonstrated the occurrence of meaningful relationships between plant nutritional status and cyanogenic glucoside production; confirming the possible use of plant tissue analysis in predicting fertiliser needs for the consistent attainment of low cyanogenic glucosides in cassava roots.