- As first phase trial planting begins
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
As part of its mandate of boosting agricultural raw materials for industrial use, the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) has presented improved safflowers seeds to the members of Saffron/Safflower Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, for the first phase of wet season trial of the programme
The Director General, RMRDC, Dr. Hussaini Ibrahim, while speaking at the event in Abuja recently, said the initiative was aimed at increasing the pool of industrial agricultural commodities in Nigeria through the introduction of an exotic plant of proven industrial and economic importance.
Ibrahim, who was represented by the Council’s Director, Technology Development Department, Dr. Abimbola Ogunnusi, said a number of companies are importing the flowers and seeds of the plant in substantial quantities due to the increasing use of the flowers in herbal medicines, teas and for extraction of dyes.
He also revealed that the drought-tolerant plant can grow in various parts of the country and can be cultivated as an oil crop, even under poor environmental conditions
Ibrahim noted: “Interestingly, a Chinese company, Kong Associates (Shanghai) Co. Ltd has introduced the plant species to the Nkoranza Region of Ahafo District in Ghana for multi-locational trials.
“As a result of the collaboration between the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) and Kong Associates, the seeds of the plant species were brought to Nigeria and planted on trial plots in Zaria, Kaduna State; Jos in Plateau State and Benin in Edo State.
“The plant performed well in these locations, making Kong Associates in collaborating with the Council to carry out multi locational trials through improved seeds developed in China. This wet season trial is the first phase of the programme. The second phase is planned for dry season cultivation under irrigation for comparison purposes,” he said.
The Director General added that to complement this and to encourage participating farmers to plant the seeds, the Council plans to give farmers a stipend for land preparation and for other inputs.
“In our opinion, if this initiative is adequately harnessed, it will open up avenues and opportunities for farmers growing safflower for local industrial use and for the export of its seeds and flowers. The Council has put in place plans for a buy-back arrangement of the seeds and flowers for further development purposes, he explained.
Ibrahim also explained that the plant can be cultivated as an oil crop, under poor environmental conditions, adding that the optimum temperature for germination is about 15.5°C, while the day temperatures in the range of 24-32° are congenital for higher yields.
The crop, he noted, is however not fit for tracts of heavy rainfall, but grows well in areas having rainfall between 60 and 90cm, adding that waterlogging due to poor drainage or prolonged rain can cause substantial reduction in yield.
He explained further that the crop grows well in a variety of soils such as sandy loams, clay loams and alluvial shallow and light textured soils, but however requires moderate to high fertile, fairly deep moisture retentive and well drained soils for maximum yields.