Farmers and researchers are lamenting low cassava productivity attributed to the impact of major diseases such as Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Steak Disease (CBSD). CBSD leads to root rot and shows in yellowing and wrinkled leaves. Its attack can cause losses of up to 100 per cent and reduce the crop’s market value.
The Coordinating Director of the Nigerian Agricultural and Quarantine Service (NAQS), Vincent Isegwu, has stressed the need to be on the watch out for viral diseases that are capable of destroying farm produce during the harvest season. The diseases, according to him, are Cassava brown streak, maize nitant necrosis and coconut yellowing disease.
The federal government Tuesday began the distribution of high yielding and disease resistant cassava including Vitamin A cassava stems to the beneficiaries of December 2016 Vocational Training in Sustainable Production Techniques.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said on Tuesday that cassava is a crop that helps fight poverty in Nigeria. Ogbeh said this while speaking at the Annual Planning Meeting of NextGen Cassava Breeding Project at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.
IITA has launched a digital surveillance platform called Cassava Disease Surveillance (CDS) to facilitate cassava disease surveillance in Nigeria. “The CDS is a virtual network for rapid diagnosis of cassava diseases, communication, and coordinated deployment of emergency response,” said Lava Kumar, IITA Virologist and lead investigator of the CDS project.
This interactive program—accessible through any internet-enabled devices—offers effective and economical solutions to the challenges in coordinating and communicating disease outbreaks in the fields and interception of pathogens and pathogens in the commodities exchanged between country borders. A particular focus of the CDS program is to monitor for cassava brown streak disease, which is ravaging cassava production in East Africa, but not yet present Nigeria.
“The ultimate aims of CDS-Nigeria are to protect cassava crops from CBSD and prevent it from establishing in Nigeria,” said Ogunfunmilayo, Head of the Postentry Quarantine Station of Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS).
Surveillance and diagnostics play a vital role in identifying and eradicating destructive diseases. Left unchecked, the diseases expand and eventually become increasingly difficult to control. CDS aims to prevent these diseases by early diagnosis. The platform is a virtual network that enables rapid preliminary diagnosis of cassava disease by visual inspection of suspect specimens. Symptomatic specimens are submitted as digital images by internet-enabled devices. These images are immediately analyzed by a team of national and international experts. It also includes a coordination framework for regulatory action by NAQS to contain any threat identified in the field.
A one-day workshop, organized by IITA on 4 May, established the CDS program at NAQS’ Ibadan Post-entry station and trained resident staff on its application. In addition, a solar-powered workstation was supplied and installed at the station by IITA.
In the workshop, Robert Asiedu, R4D Director West Africa, cautioned against complacency against exotic threats such as CBSD. He highlighted the uniqueness of the CDS program and its potential to become the first line of defense in guarding against exotic disease threats.
Michael Abberton, Head of IITA’s Genetic Resources Center, said that phytosanitary compliance is paramount for crop germplasm exchange on international agricultural R&D, especially with increasing frequency of material exchange and upsurge in new disease outbreaks creating new challenges.
Peter Kulakow, Head of the Cassava Breeding Unit at IITA, Ibadan, said that CDS complements ‘Cassava.base’ a dedicated cassava breeding and genomics resource. He said cassava breeders can play a significant role in monitoring and relaying any suspicious situation through CDS.
The CDS program also supports follow-up inspections and laboratory testing of suspect samples for accurate diagnosis and offers solutions for prevention and management. It is an open access platform managed by NAQS with IITA.
The NAQS team tested the platform in IITA cassava fields, as Busayo Ogunya, CDS web developer, walked the team through the application process. Feedback from the session included suggestions on a mobile app and a gallery-option that would curate previously analyzed symptoms. CDS will be nationally launched in July 2016.
“The partnership with NAQS on CDS is important,” noted Oguntade Oluwole from the Germplasm Health Unit. “We work very closely with NAQS in ensuring compliance and are jointly working to develop effective capacity to institutionalize CDS,” he added.
As Africa battles with invasive pathogens, initiatives such as the CDS will play a significant role in preventing them from spreading and establishing in new geographic regions. On behalf of the NAQS Coordinating Director, Vincent Isegbe, Ogunfunmilayo thanked the CDS developing team of IITA and NAQS and assured rigorous pilot testing prior to national launch.
On Thursday, 30 April, Dr Howarth Bouis, Director of HarvestPlus, visited Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The meeting brought together national and international partners working in the field of food security and nutrition to discuss the activities of HarvestPlus worldwide and in particular those executed in the DRC.
There were 40 participants in the meeting from the following institutions: the Prime Minister’s office; National Seed Service, (SENASEM), National Institute of Agronomic Studies and Research (INERA), the secretary of Rural Development, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Smart Development Works, IITA, World Food Program, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Service, Helen Keller Foundation, and the international and local press.
The meeting talked about the mission and activities of HarvestPlus in DRC, which is to contribute not only to food security but also in the fight against malnutrition by promoting biofortified crops rich in vitamin A, iron, and zinc. During the meeting HarvestPlus emphasized the importance of capacity building for national services such as SENASEM, INERA, and other stakeholders, including local structures for the ownership and sustainability of activities for improving the livelihood of the Congolese people living in rural areas.
Prior to this meeting, Dr Bouis, accompanied by Dr Antoine Lubobo and Ir. Sylvain Bidiaka, the Country Managers of HarvestPlus-DRC, was received at the Prime Minister’s office, USAID, and the Canadian and Belgian cooperative projects in DRC to discuss the program and its future prospects.
In DRC, HarvestPlus is currently concentrating on cassava rich in vitamin A and beans rich in iron and zinc. The challenge is to improve the habits and mind set of Congolese citizens to consume not only the right quantity but also the right quality of food, especially with its food diversification strategy. These biofortified varieties of cassava and beans are registered in the national catalog published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock. They are being spread among the beneficiaries in partnership with local organizations.
Biofortification is an integrated and multi-sector strategy for improving nutrition and well-being. It is a conventional method for improving plants without genetic manipulation to increase the micronutrient content in agricultural crops.
HarvestPlus is also a member of CGIAR) and is coordinated by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Research Institute for Food Policy (IFPRI). In DRC, HarvestPlus activities carried out under cassava and maize are conducted in partnership with IITA, INERA, and local universities.
Heads of implementing partner institutions comprising the National Root Crops Research Institute, NRCRI, Umudike; Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, FUNAAB, and the University of Agriculture Makurdi, UAM, were proud over the progress made towards the implementation of the Cassava Weed Management Project, CWMP, a project led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA.
In a briefing session with the Project Coordinating team in Makurdi, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture Makurdi, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha, thanked the team for efficient and effective sharing of information on the activities of the project through the newsletter and social media, and also called on other projects to emulate the IITACWMP.
Kucha, who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of UAM, Prof John Ayoade, said the equipment donated to the University by the project were of great help to research.
At the NRCRI, the Executive Director, Dr. Julius Okonkwo, also lauded the capacity-building efforts of the project. He promised that his institute would continue to provide the necessary support to ensure that the project attains its goals and impacts positively on the lives of farmers.
Okonkwo pledged to ensure that the project’s assets and research trials were protected and secured. Demonstrating his commitment to the Project, the NRCRI boss promised to release additional four hectares to the IITACWMP for trials this season at Utobi in Benue state.
The Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Prof O. B. Oyewole said his University was glad to be part of the IITA-CWMP. He emphasized that the results from the project would be useful to the society in general, and the advancement of the productivity of cassava in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Principal Investigator of the IITA-CWMP, Prof Friday Ekeleme, and the Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert, Mr. Godwin Atser had made presentations on the activities of the project in the outgoing year and plans for the year 2015.
Ekeleme said the successful implementation of the activities of the project last year was a joint effort involving partners from NRCRI, FUNAAB, UAM and IITA under the leadership of the Project Coordinator, Dr Alfred Dixon.
He therefore called on partners not to rest on their laurels but to redouble their efforts and commitment to attain the project’s milestones this year. The visiting team, together with the Project Administrator, Mrs. Ezinne Ibe, visited the experimental farms across the various partner institutions
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. ###
For more information, please contact:
Godwin Atser, firstname.lastname@example.org
In a bid to combat the prevalent issue of weeds ravaging cassava fields in Africa, the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) has committed to a partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on cassava weed management project.
According to the SON Director – Dr. Joseph Odumodu, the commitment of his organization was prompted amid growing concerns over the existing threat of weeds to cassava production in the country, as well as in other cassava producing nations of Asia.
Odumodu added that the IITA, NRCRI, FUNAAB UAM and SON collaboration depicts innovation and standards which are correlated. He said it would go a long way in reducing drudgery associated with weeding in cassava farms.
The project as outlined by Leader IITA Cassava Weed Management Project, Dr. Alfred Dixon, is exploring a mix of best agronomic practices, mechanical weed control and the use of environmentally friendly herbicides to tackle weeds.
“It is estimated that women spend about 800 hours per annum to weed and their children’s education in most cases is compromised as they are withdrawn from school to take care of cassava farms. The project would help reduce the burden faced by women and children”, he added.
While commending SON for agreeing to work with the research team, the Principal Investigator, IITA Cassava Weed Management Project – Professor Friday Ekeleme noted that SON’s expertise in the area of standardization would bring benefits to farmers just as he identified weeds as a major constraint capable of undermining yield and productivity of cassava.