Re­searchers em­ploy new tech to mul­ti­ply cas­sava plant­ing ma­te­ri­als

Daily Trust - - GOLDEN HARVEST - By Hus­sein Ya­haya

Sci­en­tists work­ing on cas­sava breed­ing are now us­ing the SemiAu­totrophic Hy­dro­pon­ics (SAH) tech­nol­ogy to rev up the prop­a­ga­tion of clean cas­sava plant­ing ma­te­ri­als.

The SAH in­volves the use of mod­i­fied soil which holds plant roots in plant­ing pots with lit­tle wa­ter. Usu­ally the trays are filled with a lit­tle amount of wa­ter, and the soil trans­ports the mois­ture up to the plant roots, yet the top of the soil re­mains rel­a­tively dry.

The roots are en­cour­aged to grow down, and the dry soil on top dis­cour­ages damp-off and other dis­eases caused by ex­cess mois­ture.

Dr Peter Ku­lakow, a cas­sava breeder with the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Trop­i­cal Agri­cul­ture (IITA), said the beauty of the tech­nol­ogy was its rapid mul­ti­pli­ca­tion ra­tio.

“Usu­ally when breed­ers de­velop new cas­sava va­ri­eties, the chal­lenge is how to mul­ti­ply and dis­sem­i­nate to farm­ers. Hence cas­sava is a clonal crop and mul­ti­pli­ca­tion is done us­ing stems, this process takes sev­eral years,’’ he said.

Dr Ku­lakow said this ex­plains in part why it takes long for new im­proved va­ri­eties to be dis­sem­i­nated at large scale to farm­ers.

“With this tech­nol­ogy, th­ese con­straints will be ad­dressed and it will be eas­ier for farm­ers to have easy ac­cess to new va­ri­eties once we de­velop them,” he ex­plained.

But be­sides ad­dress­ing the con­straints of slow and low mul­ti­pli­ca­tion ra­tio in cas­sava seed sys­tem, the SAH tech­nol­ogy also pro­duces clean plant­ing ma­te­ri­als that are dis­ease­free. The cost of pro­duc­tion of the plants is cheaper us­ing SAH when com­pared to tis­sue cul­ture, Dr Ku­lakow said.

The SAH tech­nol­ogy in cas­sava is a brain child of the project: Build­ing an Eco­nom­i­cally Sus­tain­able In­te­grated Seed Sys­tem for Cas­sava (BA­SICS).

He­mant Nit­turkar, Project Di­rec­tor of BA­SICS ex­plained that once the tech­nol­ogy, which is adopted from Ar­gentina, is ap­plied and per­fected in Nigeria, it is ex­pected to have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the abil­ity of early gen­er­a­tion seed busi­nesses to quickly bring suit­able va­ri­eties within reach of farm­ers.

The BA­SICS project is also work­ing with Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Seed Coun­cil (NASC) and Fera of United King­dom to im­prove the qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem in Nigeria.

Grown by more than 500 mil­lion peo­ple in Africa, Asia, and Latin Amer­ica; cas­sava is an im­por­tant crop for both food se­cu­rity and wealth cre­ation. The root crop is a source of com­mer­cial an­i­mal feed, fiber for pa­per and tex­tile man­u­fac­tur­ers, and starch for food and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­tries.

Dr Peter Ku­lakow of IITA Cas­sava Breeder (mid­dle) ex­plain­ing the SAH tech­nol­ogy in Ibadan on how thou­sands of cas­sava seedlings are prop­a­gated in record time

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