The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has developed a revolutionary rapid multiplication technology to tackle cassava problems in Nigeria under its Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS).
The BASICS Project Director, Dr Hemant Nitturkar, said this at the 2019 annual planning review meeting of BASICS at the IITA, Ibadan, Oyo State, on Monday, March 11, 2019.
Nitturkar said the technology was also known as Semi Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH).
He said that the institute had also established an IITA “Go seed and Umudike seeds” at the National Root, Crops, Research Institute (NRCRI) as a place to obtain certified breeder and foundation seeds.
“This opens up a huge entrepreneurial opportunity for Nigerian youths to act as seed entrepreneurs to supply improved seeds and advise to cassava farmers.
“This will help farmers, processors and the nation at large, as less than 10 tonnes per hectare current yield of cassava per annum is not sustainable.
“Nigeria should double this, and BASICS is working in that direction,” he said.
Nitturkar said that the theme was chosen to bring the stakeholders focus on spreading the word about the importance of widespread adoption of improved seeds and what BASICS had done to foster a sustainable seed system.
“Unless there is a sustained, widespread demand for certified seeds from vast number of farmers, all the work at commercial seed levels will come to a naught.
“So, communication to strengthen demand side to complement the supply side development is the need of the hour,” he said.
According to him, the purpose of BASICS project is to develop a sustainable cassava seed value chain in Nigeria characterised by commercial production and dissemination of cassava planting material.
He said that the project envisaged benefits to farmers and the industry were higher returns from the use of clean planting material of superior stem quality that were made accessible to farmers at the right time and at an appropriate price.
The Director-General, National Agriculture Seeds Council (NASC), Dr Philip Ojo, said that the impact of BASICS had been overwhelming as the reports received daily from the field were encouraging.
“Production of certified cassava seeds has multiplied tremendously from 10,091 bundles in 2017 to 55,639 bundles in 2018; the use and need to use certified seeds is gradually becoming institutionalised.
“The Cassava Seed Tracker (CST) has revolutionised our certification systems and presently been dovetailed at the NASC end to become the national seed tracker which will encompass all crops,” he said.
Ojo said that the NASC as a sub unit of the quality team was aspiring to build on the success recorded so far, to maximise the gains of the CST.
He said that it would achieve this by sensitising marketers and processors to latch on the CST, organising seed fairs that would sensitise, popularise certified cassava seeds.
The D-G added that NASC would also kick-start the private certification programme which was still currently stalled by the passage of the amended Seed Act.
By Chidinma Ewunonu-Aluko