Improved weed control help push up cassava harvest on demo farms

On-farm  demonstrations in Ogun  state, Nigeria under the International Institute of Tropical  Agriculture (IITA)  managed Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP) have produced  average yields of  27 tons per hectare surpassing the national average of about  8 tons/ha.

The demos were conducted in 2016 in the three senatorial districts of Ogun states using an integrated weed control package developed by the IITA-CWMP.

Presenting  the results during the  Joint Quarterly Review Meeting of the project in Abeokuta,  Dr Patience  Olorunmaiye, a scientist at the Federal University of  Agriculture Abeokuta  (FUNAAB), said the yield from the demonstration plots were  impressive and a  proof of concept that if farmers adopted improved weed  management practices,  they would be better off.

The highest yield from the demonstration farms was 32 tons/ha with 96 percent of the demonstration farms recording more than 20 tons/ha.

Prof Friday Ekeleme, Principal Investigator of the IITA-CWMP said the results clearly show that weeds were a major factor limiting the potential of cassava in Africa.

In the last four years, the IITA-CWMP with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made a bold decision to unravel the puzzle of weeds menace in cassava.

Working with  a coalition of  partners including the Federal University of Agriculture  Abeokuta, University  of Agriculture Makurdi, the National Root Crops Research  Institute, and  extension partners; the team set up trials in the three  agroecological zones of  the country including the humid forest, derived savannah and  the southern  guinea savannah.

These trials led to the selection of safe and environmentally friendly herbicides with other agronomic practices that formed the package that was used in setting up the demos in Ogun and other states of Nigeria (Abia, Benue, and Oyo). Results from the other states are also being compiled for analysis.

Prof. Ekeleme said the results from Ogun state was a thing of joy not only to the project team but also to the country at large.

He said the results indicated that the project was achieving one of its major objectives, which is to double the national average yield of cassava, generate wealth, and reduce the burden of weeding in cassava farming systems.

Grown by over 4.5 million people in Nigeria, cassava is a major staple contributing to food security and wealth of the nation. Although Nigeria is a major producer of the root crop accounting for over 54 million tons per annum, average yield per ha is low with weeds being fingered as a major block.

Researchers say farmers cannot grow cassava more than they can weed—a situation that limits farm size and subject farmers to perpetual penury.

Dr Alfred Dixon, a director with IITA and Project Leader for IITA-CWMP said the project would help Nigeria change the narrative of cassava production.

He called on the government of Nigeria to partner IITA in scaling up the findings of the project to millions of cassava farmers for national development and poverty reduction.

The Project  Leader commended the  Justice Development and Peace Movement (JDPM) in Oyo ,  Justice Development and  Peace Movement (JDPM) in Ogun, Abia State Agricultural  Development Program,  Benue Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA),  Ogun State  Agricultural Development Program (OGADEP), and Oyo State  Agricultural  Development Program (OYSADEP) for their support in setting  up the  demonstrations across the states.