Nigeria has released two improved cassava varieties in an effort to maintain its lead as the world’s largest producer of the root crop, improve incomes of farmers and make them smile.
The varieties were developed through a collaborative effort between the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Nigerian Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI).
“Both varieties performed well in different cassava production regions of Nigeria with high yield, high dry matter and good disease resistance. The roots of these varieties are yellow and contain moderate levels of pro-Vitamin A,” says Dr Peter Kulakow, IITA Cassava Breeder.
Potential maximum yield of the two varieties is between 49 and 53 tons per hectare, according to pre-varietal release trials that were conducted between 2008 and 2010. Local varieties produce less than 10 tons per hectare.
The varieties are also resistant to major pests and diseases that affect cassava in the country including cassava mosaic disease, cassava bacterial blight, cassava anthracnose, cassava mealybug and cassava green mite.
Researchers say developing new improved varieties is one way that will boost the steady supply of cassava roots to this ever increasing demand.
According to Dr. Chiedozie Egesi, NRCRI Cassava Breeder, continuous breeding of such improved new varieties will help in stabilizing production, processing and marketing of cassava products.
“The impact of these efforts will be felt in areas such as rural employment and a virile cassava industrial sector,” he added.
Cassava, a rough and ready root crop that has long been the foundation of food security in Africa is finally getting the respect it deserves.
In Ghana, the promotion of High Quality Cassava Flour has in the past four years helped open up markets for cassava farmers to improve incomes and reduce poverty levels.
According to Dr. Abdulai Baaba Salifu, Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), over 45,000 tons of surplus cassava from farmers’ fields had been moved into the new markets within the cassava value chain, as at March 2012.
The CSIR-Food Research Institute (FRI) in collaboration with the IITA developed agro-processed foods under the “Cassava: Added Value for Africa” Project to serve as wheat flour substitute for the production of bread, pastries and in plywood production amongst others.
In May 2012, the World Bank approved a US$120 million financing for the Phase II of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) to improve root and tuber food production in Ghana and Senegal.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) are also investing $25.2 million to improve the staple crop’s productivity and build human and technical capacity for plant breeding in sub-Saharan Africa.