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Weed control: 11,000 farmers for IITA’s on-farm trials

For the 2016 farming season, the Steering Committee of the Cassava Weed Management Project, which is managed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA-CWMP) has approved the establishment of 58 on-farm trials across Nigeria.

A farmer using a mechanical weeder
A farmer using a mechanical weeder

The plan, accordingly to the decision that formed part of resolutions and recommendations of the 2016 Steering Committee meeting held in IITA, Ibadan 28-29 April 2016, “is to reach, through the on-farm trials, at least 11,000 farmers with a basket of weed control options, and offer farmers the opportunity to choose by themselves, weed control methods that best suit their locality and address their needs.”

Weed control is the botanical component of pest control, which attempts to stop weeds, especially noxious or injurious weeds, from competing with domesticated plants and livestock.

Prof. John Ayoade, a Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Agriculture Makurdi, who chaired the meeting on behalf of the Executive Director of the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Dr Julius Okonkwo, said the on-farm trials would validate the two-year results obtained from research stations.

The on-farm trials will involve farmers from Benue, Abia, Oyo and Ogun states on different aspects of weed control including the use of motorised mechanical weeders, best-bet agronomic practices including correct spacing, improved variety, cassava/maize intercrop, use of fertilisers and tillage practices, and the use of environmentally friendly herbicides. Each on-farm trial is about one and half acres and will be researcher-managed.

Project Leader, IITA-CWMP, Dr Alfred Dixon, said the on-farm trials would provide opportunity for both researchers and farmers to work together on the path of discovery in a participatory manner.

“Our research approach is inclusive and farmers are important stakeholders in this equation,” he said.

Though Nigeria is a global leader in cassava production, the average yield on farmers’ fields is about 14 tons per hectare, representing half of those obtained on research stations. One of the limiting factors to increased productivity is poor weed control, and the IITA-CWMP is working with partners within and outside Nigeria to provide solutions to weed damage to crops.

The Steering Committee, which plays an oversight role on the project, is headed by the Executive Director of NRCRI, Dr Julius Okonkwo, and other 11 members drawn from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), CropLife, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), University of Agriculture Makurdi (UAM), Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), a private consulting firm, IITA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

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