IITA Unveils New Varieties to Boost Cassava Production

Gilbert Ekugbe

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has unveiled new cassava varieties developed by the NextGen project to boost cassava production in the country. 

In a statement, IITA during a farmers’ field day and product launch excited farmers in Kogi and Benue States as they expressed awe at the large sizes and number of roots produced by the new cassava varieties.

The farmers spoke about the difference between the new varieties and the old ones, saying Baba 70 and Game Changer yielded more than local varieties, which they were used to. Some took a few stems to plant in their fields, saying they would love to adopt the new varieties.

According to the breeders, while Game Changer can produce 32 tonnes per hectare, Baba 70 can produce 38 tonnes per hectare. It was also proven that the new cultivars were drought-tolerant and resistant to the virus diseases of cassava.

Speaking at the event, a Molecular Geneticist and Plant Breeder with IITA, Dr. Ismail Rabbi, stated that years of consumer preference studies were conducted before releasing the varieties.

Rabbi said: “In addition to high yield and stress tolerance, we found that these varieties are suitable for several agro-ecologies. Farmers, processors and consumers love these varieties because they were high-yielding, stress-tolerant, and disease-resistant and had the right food properties.”

The Head of IITA GoSeed, Dr. Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, said that the varieties would help to raise the livelihoods of farmers. “I am confident that farmers who adopt these varieties will make more profit and improve their livelihoods. These varieties are also a huge contribution to food security,” she added.

Speaking on the field, the Product Manager for Crop Variety Development, IITA, Dr. Vishnuardhan Banda, expressed joy that the farmers and processors were happy with the new varieties and eager to plant them on their farms. 

Banda, however, urged them to always send feedback on the performance of the varieties to the researchers.

His words: “We want you to work with us. You are very important in the process of crop improvement. You are the farmers and the first consumers. We urge you to always tell us how these varieties are performing on your various farms. You have seen that these are very good varieties but we know that in years to come, you would need something new. Just keep giving us feedback about farmers’ choices and complaints, and we the breeders will be working with that information to give you new and better products.”

The former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, Ambassador Jaiyeola Lewu, was present at the event, commended the NextGen project and the IITA and NRCRI scientists.

Lewu described the varieties as game changers in the agricultural sector, saying that farmers would benefit immensely from them.

In his response, the Advocacy Outreach and Promotions Lead of the IITA Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II) project, Dr. Godwin Atser, who spoke on behalf of the Project Manager, Prof. Lateef Sanni, stated that the BASICS-II project would use its seed system model (BASICS model) to ensure that farmers get access to new and improved varieties.

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