A drought-resistant tropical shrub capable of producing a rich, starchy root in marginal soil, cassava has been shown to be a suitable source of biofuel and a useful alternative to petroleum-based fuels.
Seeking to evaluate the potential of cassava to be grown on marginal lands at a global scale as a biofuel, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) used GBIF-mediated cassava occurrences combined with data on land use, climate and soil to create a boosted regression tree model mapping the environmental suitability of the plant.
With high accuracy and good performance, the obtained model was influenced primarily by land cover and annual precipitation with relative contributions of 46 and 35 per cent, respectively.
Focusing on relevant biomes, i.e. shrubland, savanna and grassland, the researchers estimated the worldwide marginal land area suitable for cassava to be 1.6 billion hectares—half of which are in Africa. With 394 million hectares, Brazil has the largest suitable land area followed by Angola with 105 million hectares.