Farmers Excited As NextGen, IITA, NRCRI, Launch New, Improved Cassava Varieties In Kogi
The NextGen Cassava Project, being implemented by Cornell University, New York, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), has launched new, improved cassava varieties.
The new, improved varieties include: Game Changer, Baba 70 and Poundable, which were part of the varieties released in 2020, was launched on Friday at Crest Agro Farms along Kabba-Lokoja Expressway, Lokoja.
Speaking at the event, Dr Ismail Rabbi, a molecular geneticist and plant breeder with IITA, stated that years of consumer preference studies were conducted before releasing the varieties.
”In addition to high yield and stress tolerance, we found that these varieties are suitable for several agro-ecologies.
“Farmers, processors and consumers love these varieties because they were high-yielding, stress-tolerant, disease-resistant and had the right food properties.
“I am confident that farmers who adopt these varieties will make more profit and improve their livelihoods. These varieties are also a huge contribution to food security,” he said.
He explained that when cultivated with good agronomic practices and weed control, the new varieties produce more than 30 tons per hectare instead of the current national average yield of eight tons per hectare.
According to him, while Game Changer can produce 32 tons per hectare, Baba 70 can produce 38 tons per hectare. It was also proven that the new cultivars were drought-tolerant and resistant to the virus diseases of cassava.
As part of the inauguration, farmers and processors were taken to the field where the varieties were planted alongside an old improved variety, TME 419, 11 months ago and managed by Crest Agro.
After an assessment of the field as well as the plant architecture, the farmers participated in harvesting some of the roots to compare with TME 419.
The farmers expressed awe at the large sizes and number of roots produced by the varieties. They spoke about the difference between the new varieties and the old ones, saying Baba 70 and Game Changer were far ahead of the TME 419 they were used to. Some took a few stems to plant on their fields, saying they would love to adopt the new varieties.
There was also a demonstration of the processing of the new varieties to prove that their dry matter and starch contents were high and of great food value.
The participants witnessed the entire process from the farm to the table where they consumed garri, eba and fufu, chips and chinchin made from the two varieties.
The meals were consumed with vegetable and egusi stew made with cassava leaves.
Speaking on the field, Dr. Vishnuardhan Banda, Product Manager for Crop Variety Development, IITA, expressed joy that the farmers and processors were happy with the new varieties and eager to plant them on their farms.
He, however urged them to always send feedback on the performance of the varieties to the researchers.
“We want you to work with us. You are very important in the process of crop improvement. You are the farmers and the first consumers. We urge you to always tell us how these varieties are performing on your various farms.
You have seen that these are very good varieties but we know that in years to come, you would need something new. Just keep giving us feedback about farmers’ choices and complaints, and we the breeders will be working with that information to give you new and better products.”
Amb. Jaiyeola Lewu, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, and now a farmer, was present at the event.
While commending the NextGen project and the IITA and NRCRI scientists, Lewu described the varieties as game changers in the agricultural sector, saying “farmers will benefit immensely from them.”
He urged the project leaders to ensure that the products were availabke and assesible to the farmers who need them.
In his response, Dr. Godwin Atser, the Advocacy, Outreach and Promotions Lead of the IITA Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II) project, who spoke on behalf of Prof. Lateef Sanni, the Project Manager, stated that the BASICS-II project is using a seed system model to ensure that farmers get access to new and improved varieties.
“There is no gainsaying that farmers need new and improved varieties to improve their livelihoods, ensure food security and contribute to economic development. .
”That is why we created the BASICS model, which links Cassava Breeding Programs with Early Generation Seed Companies like IITA GoSeed and Umudike Seed to multiply the foundation seeds that are passed on to cassava seed entrepreneurs who produce certified seeds for onward dissemination to farmers,” he said.
Present at the product launch were farmers, processors, and representatives from Kogi State Ministry of Agriculture, Kogi State Agricultural Development Program, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association and other public and private sector stakeholders. IITA and NRCRI scientists were also in attendance.