The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, under its Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) project, has developed technologies to improve yam production in Nigeria.
YIIFSWA is a seed system development project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to assist Nigerian farmers cultivate improved and high yielding yam seedlings and roots to enhance production.
Mrs Oiwoja Ooihi, the Communication Specialist of YIIFSWA, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday, that the technologies were called Temporary Immersion Bioreactor System (TIBS) and aeroponics system.
NAN reports that aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium (known as geoponics).
The word “aeroponic’’ is derived from the Greek meanings of aero- (air) and ponos (labour).
Ooihi said the technologies would help in tackling challenges of high propagation of yams.
She said that 100 per cent water yam flour could be used to bake confectioneries like bread, cakes and cookies while only 20 per cent of cassava could be used with 80 per cent wheat.
“With the low technologies and poor seedlings we have in Nigeria, farmers are generating about $13.7 billion from yams production every year.
“But if we embrace this technology and we are able to generate and disseminate enough seeds to farmers through certified seed sellers, the farmers may be generating $17.9 billion from yam production annually.
“We can then use this to offset the import bill of $11 billion annually.
“If we marry that with processing, you can imagine the amount of money that will be generated for Nigeria?
“We hope that with the beginning of the seeds system development, we can look at the whole yam value chain and can multiply them to raise farmers income,’’ she said.
Ooihi said that Nigeria was the largest producers of yam while Ghana was the largest exporters of the produce, hence the development of the technology in the countries.
According to her, Nigeria and Ghana produce about 75 per cent of yams consumed across the world.
She said the YIIFSWA was working with various research institutes in Nigeria to further develop the technologies.
She listed the institutes to include the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Abuja, the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike and the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Ibadan.
The communication specialist expressed regret over the low quality yams seedlings in the country.
According to her, this is a threat to the Nigeria’s ambition of exporting yam to other countries.
NAN recalls that the project is a BMGF’s new five-year seed yam system, launched by the IITA on Feb. 2017.
The initiative will ensure timely availability of improved yam seed on a commercial basis for smallholder farmers in Nigeria and Ghana.
The principle of aeroponic is to grow plants suspended in a closed or semi-closed environment by spraying the plant’s dangling roots and lower stem with an atomised or sprayed, nutrient-rich water solution.