Research being conducted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in seed yam multiplication holds promise and could help Nigeria to quadruple yam production, says Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, who ends a two-day visit in Ibadan today.
Addressing reporters after a tour of IITA facilities including cassava fields, the aflasafe (a biocontrol product for controlling aflatoxins) production plant, the seed yam production facility through the aeroponics system, and a soybean inoculum fertilizer facility; Chief Ogbe said the quality of research at IITA was reassuring and could help Nigeria to address food security challenges and rev up exports.
The Minister, who met with the Director General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga and other top officials of IITA, said the government would work more closely with IITA to ensure that technologies being developed by the Institute are scaled out to farmers.
According to him, agriculture holds the future but it cannot be achieved through the use of hoes and cutlasses.
“Agriculture is not just hoe and cutlasses but also research and science. That is what IITA is offering. This institute has come to play a role not just for Nigeria but Africa,” he explained.
He added that: “Agriculture has a future. Agriculture has fortunes, and with an Institute like this, those who want to go into agriculture and make money should know that there is money to be made. With you (IITA) we can move forward.”
On 29 June, Nigeria launched the export of yams with 72 tons of tubers from the country to the United States and Europe, sparking concerns over the ability of the country to sustain exports owing to the high cost of seed yams which is exacerbated by a lack of knowledge on modern seed yam multiplication techniques.
Traditionally farmers are compelled to reserve as much as 30 percent of their harvest as seeds for the next planting season. However, researchers from IITA and national partners have developed the aeroponic system of seed yam multiplication whereby the vines of the crop are used in propagating seed yams rather than tubers.
Through these method, farmers may not need to reserve their harvest for the next planting season but can simply produce seed yams for the planting season using yam vines, according to Dr Norbert Maroya, Coordinator for the project—Yam Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA).
Chief Ogbe who visited the yam aeroponic facility to observe the production of seed yams noted that the establishment of aeroponic systems across the country would rev up the production of seed yams and could quadruple the production of the tuber crop.
“One of the major problems facing yam growers is the issue of seedlings… Things (technologies) like this can quadruple the production of yams,” he said.
The Director General of IITA said the institute would support the efforts of the Nigerian government towards ensuring that the country is food secure.
According to Sanginga, the goal of the Institute is to work with governments in the context of their national agriculture strategies to eradicate hunger and poverty and create wealth.