An expert at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Mr. Kenton Dashiell, says low plant yield and poor agronomy practice is responsible for the poor status of most cassava farmers in Nigeria,Punch reports.
Dashiell, who is the Deputy Director-General, Partnership for Delivery at the institute, stated this during a courtesy visit to the head office of Punch Nigeria Limited in Magboro, Ogun State.
According to him, while the average cassava yield is 25 tonnes per hectare Nigerian farmers are getting between five and 10 tonnes per hectare.
To achieve good yield, therefore, the expert advised the country’s farmers to get the right variety of cassava stem, observe right spacing in planting, carry out good weed control, and apply fertiliser at the right time.
Using Oyo State as a reference point, Dashiell said, “We have seen a lot of medium-scale entrepreneurs coming up with both cassava production and processing in Oyo State.
“The challenge for cassava processors is getting raw materials. They have good business plans and good market for the finished products.
“Cassava should get 25 tonnes yields per hectare but on the average, farmers get 10. Some farmers are getting five tonnes per hectare.
“With 10 tonnes per hectare, it is guaranteed that the farmers would be in poverty. With 20 tonnes you will start to have some reasonable income. With 25 tonnes you are in good business.”
On the success recorded by the IITA in growing cassava and other crops in the country, Dashiell noted cassava had been invaded by bugs in the 80s until researchers from the institute traced the problem to Brazil where cassava originated from to find a remedy.
He also recounted that plant growers in the institute had found solution to maize virus that prevented the crop from growing in the northern part of the country.
The institute, he said, developed maize varieties that were resistant to the virus and the crop started flourishing very well in the North.
“Northerners now prefer maize to sorghum and millet,” he said.