Nigeria has released two improved cassava varieties in an effort to maintain its lead as the world’s largest producer of the root crop and improve incomes of farmers.
The varieties were developed through a collaborative effort between the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Nigerian Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike. The two varieties are originally recognized as IITA-developed genotypes: IITA-TMS-I982132 and IITA-TMS-I011206. But with the official release, they are now known as UMUCASS 42 and UMUCASS 43, respectively.
“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.
The 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.
Dr Chiedozie Egesi, NRCRI Cassava Breeder, who presented the varieties before the Nigeria Varietal Release committee—the body in charge of officially releasing varieties—said the varieties have the following distinct qualities:
- Good for high quality cassava flour—a sought-after trait by researchers for the cassava transformation agenda in Nigeria.
- High dry matter which is positively related to starch and crucial for cassava value chain development
- High leaf retention which is positively related to drought tolerance and is crucial for cassava production in the drier regions and in mitigating the impact of climate change, and
- Moderate levels of betacarotene for enhancing nutrition.
Over the years, cassava has been transformed from being a “poor man’s” crop to a cash and an industrial crop, as it is now processed to products such as starch, flour, glucose, and ethanol. This transition has increased the demand for this root crop.
Researchers say developing new improved varieties is one way of boosting the steady supply of cassava roots for value chain development and for industry.
According to Dr Egesi, 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 vibrant cassava industrial sector,” he added. ###
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