Nigeria gets improved cassava varieties
The Nigerian government has released four improved cassava varieties that will boost production and keep the country in the lead as the world's largest producer of the root crop.
The varieties, which are a product of about a decade-old conventional breeding research include; NR 01/0004, CR 41-10, TMS 00/0203, and TMS 01/0040.
TMS 00/0203 and TMS 01/0040 were bred by scientists working at the Ibadan-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); while NR 01/0004 and CR 41-10 were bred by Umudike-based National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and the Colombian-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) respectively.
On-farm prerelease trials involving local farmers in eight states of the country show that the improved varieties out-performed local checks with an average yield of about 31 tons per hectare as opposed to 26 t/ha recorded by the local varieties.
Farmers love the varieties for their excellent culinary qualities, high yield, and resistance to pest and diseases.
“The release of the varieties is good news for Nigerian farmers in particular and African farmers in general,” says Dr. Peter Kulakow, IITA Cassava Breeder.
“We expect to see more cassava produced in Nigeria” he adds.
Over the last decade, cassava has evolved in Nigeria from a mere food security crop to a cash and industrial crop.
Annual production has increased from 32 million metric tons in 1998 to 45 million metric tons in 2008, thanks to crop improvement programs by IITA and partners.
The new varieties seek to strengthen Nigeria's leadership in cassava production, increase farmers' incomes and guarantee food security.
Although cassava is hardy and can survive where most other crops cannot, it responds to good environments when it finds one.
Researchers say the key to mitigating changes in environmental conditions and pest and diseases among many others depends on the deployment of suitable varieties that will not suffer from sudden changes in the environment.
“Host plant resistance still remains the most sustainable approach to mitigate the impact of pests and diseases on agricultural productivity,” says Drs C.N. Egesi and E. Okogbenin, NRCRI Cassava Breeders.
“These factors call for the need to cultivate a range of cassava varieties that may be a buffer to cassava production in an integrative manner since no single variety can achieve all the end-users' requirements,” they add.
The researchers argue that the present and future demands on cassava for food and industrial needs make it necessary to always provide the farmers suitable improved cassava varieties to meet their challenges.