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RESEARCHERS SEEK MORE SUPPORT FOR AGRICULTURE

By NBF NEWS
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By Ayodamola Owoseye
March 25, 2010 03:36AM
More government support will lead to increase in food production. Photo: ABIODUN OMOTOSO

Agricultural scientists have asked for more support from government to propagate the distribution of more improved seedlings to farmers, for the development of the sector.

Wasiu Odofin, the director/chief executive officer, National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), made this call during a courtesy visit alongside Nigeria's Technical Sub Committee on the Release of Crop Varieties to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Appraisal of research institutes
The committee commended the efforts of research institutes for their effort towards enhancing food production in the country through the provision of varieties of improved seedlings to farmers in Nigeria and sub- Saharan Africa. Peter Oyekan, Chairman of the Committee, said the commendation is based on the certification and assessment of the various performances of crop varieties released in the country.

“The improved varieties developed by IITA had contributed significantly in raising crops' yield as they have been performing well in farmers' fields, because breeding has always been targeted at particular ecological zones and specific production constraints relating to pests and diseases and this is increasing farmers' incomes as well.

“For example, maize varieties that are drought-tolerant are targeted for the drought-prone regions, while stem borer-resistant varieties makes it possible for maize to thrive in the south-eastern zone of the country where stem borers are a major challenge. Others are high yielding cassava varieties, improved hybrid yam varieties, Striga and Alectra resistant cowpea, and soybean rust-resistant varieties. All these are doing well and they are making it possible to increase agric production.

“And this has consequently, earned Nigeria the position of not only the largest world producer of cassava, but has also resulted in significant gains in maize, yams, soybean, plantain/banana and cowpea production,” he added.

More research support
Mr. Odofin said the Biotechnology Centre already has a closer working relationship with the IITA, especially in the conservation of the country's genetic resources to create a synergy that will facilitate greater researches and improve efficiency in the use of resources.

“IITA needs to be commended for the capacity building it has offered to Nigerian scientists. More of such opportunities are still needed in the future. NACGRAB is building its core scientists and we need IITA support to strengthen our capacities,” he said.

Dr. Paula Bramel, IITA's Deputy-Director, Research, while receiving the delegation, reiterated the institute's goals of reducing poverty in Africa.

“The institute remains open to partnerships as part of its strategy is aimed at improving the livelihoods of farmers,” she said.

Farmers' confirmation
Oladele Quadiri, a farmer at the Epe, Lagos, said he has enjoyed planting cassava stems from IITA ever since he was introduced to it in 2006 by the Lagos State Agricultural Development Agency in Oko-Oba.

“The yields from the cassava are very impressive as they are bigger and disease resistant. They also bring in more money and grow at quicker pace than the normal local cassava we used to grow,” he said.