NIGERIA – Through the NextGen project, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has developed new cassava varieties to boost cassava production in the country.

Compared to local varieties, the new varieties Baba 70 and Game Changer are higher yielding. While Game Changer can produce 32 tonnes per hectare, Baba 70 can produce 38 tonnes per hectare. The new cultivars are drought-tolerant and resistant to the virus diseases of cassava.

In a statement, IITA during a farmers’ field day and product launch excited farmers in Kogi and Benue States as they expressed awe at the large sizes and number of roots produced by the new cassava varieties.

Some took a few stems to plant in their fields, saying they would love to adopt the new varieties.

Speaking at the event, a Molecular Geneticist and Plant Breeder with IITA, Dr. Ismail Rabbi, stated that years of consumer preference studies were conducted before releasing the varieties.

“In addition to high yield and stress tolerance, we found that these varieties are suitable for several agro-ecologies. Farmers, processors and consumers love these varieties because they were high-yielding, stress-tolerant, and disease-resistant and had the right food properties,” he said.

According to Dr. Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, Head of IITA GoSeed, the varieties will help to raise the livelihoods of farmers.

“I am confident that farmers who adopt these varieties will make more profit and improve their livelihoods. These varieties are also a huge contribution to food security,” she added.

Speaking on the field, the Product Manager for Crop Variety Development, IITA, Dr. Vishnuardhan Banda, expressed joy that the farmers and processors were happy with the new varieties and eager to plant them on their farms.

Banda, however, called on the farmers to send feedback on the performance of the varieties to the researchers.

“We want you to work with us. You are very important in the process of crop improvement. You are the farmers and the first consumers. We urge you to always tell us how these varieties are performing on your various farms.

“You have seen that these are very good varieties but we know that in years to come, you would need something new. Just keep giving us feedback about farmers’ choices and complaints, and we the breeders will be working with that information to give you new and better products,” he urged.

Also in attendance, was Jaiyeola Lewu, former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, , who commended the NextGen project and the IITA and NRCRI scientists.

He described the varieties as game changers in the agricultural sector, saying that farmers would benefit immensely from them.

Speaking on behalf of the Project Manager, Prof. Lateef Sanni, the Advocacy Outreach and Promotions Lead of the IITA Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II) project, Dr. Godwin Atser, stated that the BASICS-II project would use its seed system model to ensure that farmers get access to new and improved varieties.

The Next Generation Cassava Breeding (NEXTGEN Cassava) project aims to significantly increase the rate of genetic improvement in cassava breeding and unlock the full potential of cassava.

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