The Commissioners for Agriculture in Nigeria’s cassava growing belt have said that weeds are major cause of low yields in cassava production in the country.
According to them, weeds are the main constraint limiting the competitiveness of cassava farmers in the country.
The declaration was made in a communiqué signed by 14 Commissioners for Agriculture.
It was issued at the end of the 2018 Annual Review and Work Planning Meeting of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Cassava Weed Management Project in Ibadan
The meeting was with the theme; “Unveiling of new Technologies for Weed Control in Cassava Farming Systems’’, was held at IITA between March 19 and March 20.
The communiqué quoted Dr Kenton Dashiell, the Deputy Director-General, Partnerships for Delivery at IITA as saying “the declaration was a step in the right direction.
“The first step to solving a problem is identifying and recognising that you have a problem,” he said.
Dashiell said that though Nigeria was the world’s largest producer of cassava, the yield of the crop was low.
He said that the national average for Nigeria stood at 9.1 tonnes per hactre compared to Asian countries where yields were more than twice Nigeria’s national average, according to FAO.
Dashiell said this had made it difficult for cassava farmers in Nigeria to compete with their counterparts in Asia and Latin America.
According to him, there is the urgent need for collaborative efforts with the IITA Cassava Weed Management project to change the cassava narrative,
He advocated that the collaboration should be between the Federal, and state governments, the private sector, national research institutes, universities, and other stakeholders.
“It is high time attention is given to weed control, if we do nothing to address weeds, we won’t be able to transform cassava in the country.
“Among the cost variables to cassava production, weed control takes 50 per cent to 80 per cent of labour budget.
“A do-nothing approach to weed management in cassava will end up being a disaster with farmers losing almost everything.
“Over the last four years, the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project with donour support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has developed innovative packages to control weeds in cassava.
“Implementation partners include the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, the University of Agriculture Makurdi, and the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
“Other partners are the state Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs), government representatives, international cassava scientists, and the private sector,” he stated.
He said that switching to the innovative package developed by the Project, Nigeria farmers could record more than 20 tonnes per ha, up from 9 tonnes per ha being reported by FAO as Nigeria’s national average.