On-farm demonstrations in Ogun State, a project under the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), have produced average yields of 27 tons per hectare surpassing the national average of about eight tons/hectare.
Dr Patience Olorunmaiye, a scientist at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB) said this in a statement issued by Mr Godwin Atser, the Communication and Knowledge Exchange Expert on Wednesday in Abuja.
Olorunmaiye said the demonstrations were conducted in 2016 in three senatorial districts of Ogun, using an integrated weed control package developed by IITA-CWMP.
According to her, the Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP) is being managed by the IITA as a demonstration farm project.
Olorunmaiye said that the yield from the demonstration plots were impressive and a proof of the concept that if farmers adopted improved weed management practices, they would be better off.
The scientist said that the highest yield from the demonstration farms was 32 tons per hectare with 96 per cent of the demonstration farms recording more than 20 tons per hectare.
The statement also quoted Prof. Friday Ekeleme, the Principal Investigator of IITA-CWMP as saying “the results clearly showed that weeds were a major factor limiting the potential of cassava in Africa’’.
“In the last four years, the IITA-CWMP with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made a bold decision to unravel the puzzle of weeds menace in cassava.
“Working with a coalition of partners including FUNAAB, University of Agriculture, Makurdi, the National Root Crops Research Institute, and extension partners; the team set up trials in the three agro-ecological zones of the country.
“These include the humid forest, derived savannah and the southern guinea savannah.
“These trials led to the selection of safe and environmentally friendly herbicides with other agronomic practices that formed the package that was used in setting up the farms in Ogun and other states of Nigeria.
“Results from the other states are also being compiled for analysis.’’
Ekeleme said the results from Ogun state was a thing of joy not only to the project team, but also to the country at large.
He said the results indicated that the project was achieving one of its major objectives, which was to double the national average yield of cassava, generate wealth, and reduce the burden of weeding in cassava farming systems.
“Grown by over 4.5 million people in Nigeria, cassava is a major staple crop contributing to food security and wealth of the nation.
“Although, Nigeria is a major producer of the root crop accounting for over 54 million tons per annum, average yield per hectare is low with weeds being responsible as a major block.
“Researchers say farmers cannot grow cassava more than they can weed a situation that limits farm size and subject farmers to perpetual penury,’’ he said.
Dr Alfred Dixon, a Director with IITA and Project Leader for IITA-CWMP said the project would help Nigeria change the narrative of cassava production.
He called on the government of Nigeria to partner IITA in scaling up the findings of the project to millions of cassava farmers for national development and poverty reduction.