Saturday, January 19, 2013

New improved cassava varieties to boost production in Nigeria released

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Nigeria has released improved cassava varieties that is hoped will to boost productivity and secured farmers livelihoods.
The country released two improved cassava varieties on 3 January 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 according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
The two verities known as UMUCASS 42 and UMUCASS 43 respectively were developed through a collaborative effort between IITA and the Nigerian Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike.
“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 in a press release.
They are capable of giving farmers between 49 and 53 tons per hectare, according to pre-varietal release trials that conducted between 2008 and 2010 while local varieties produce less than 10 tons per hectare.
Another advantage is that they 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.
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 several distinctive features.
They are good for high quality cassava flour—a sought after trait by researchers for the cassava transformation agenda in Nigeria. They also have dry matter which is positively related to starch and crucial for cassava value chain development
Another outstanding feature is 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 they also have moderate levels of betacarotene for enhancing nutrition.
Cassava has over the years been transformed from being a “poor man’s” crop to a cash crop as well as an industrial crop as it is being processed to products such as starch, flour, glucose and ethanol. This transition has placed demand on cassava.
According to researchers, developing new improved varieties is one ways that will boost the steady supply of cassava roots to this ever increasing demand.
Egesi said that continuous breeding of such improved new varieties will help in stabilising 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.

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