Yam production: technologies to the rescue

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Yam is central to food consumption in West Africa. About 48 million tonnes of yam (95 per cent of global supply) are produced on four million hectares yearly in the sub-region, mainly in five countries: Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo, with Nigeria alone accounting for 70 per cent of its global supply.

In 2015, researchers at IITA grew various seed yams in the air by using the Aeroponics System (AS), raising hopes for the propagation of disease-free planting materials.

In the preliminary trials, Dr Norbert Maroya, Project Manager for YIIFSWA project at IITA, with a team of scientists, propagated yam by planting vine cuttings in AS boxes to produce mini-tubers in the air.

The AS is the process of growing plants in air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. Though technology is used by commercial potato seed producers in eastern Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania etc.), and southern Africa (Mozambique, Malawi, etc.), growing yam on AS is a novelty for multiplying the much-needed clean seed yam tubers in large quantities.

“With this approach, we are optimistic that farmers will begin to have clean seed yams for a better harvest,” Maroya said.
Farmers keep about 30 per cent of their harvest for planting in the following season, implying that they have less money or food.

Moreover, these saved seeds are often infested with pathogens that reduce farmers’ yield yearly.

However, with AS, yam producers can access clean seed yams.

Source: The Nation Online