A Seed Systems Principal Investigator at Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM), Teryima Iorlamen, in this interview spoke on how science is gradually moving farmers into planting yam stem, same as in cultivating sweet potato, and also dissect best agronomy practices to help them grow healthy and bigger yams for increased income. Excerpts:
When do you think is the right time to plant yam?
Farmers can plant their yam as soon as the rain stabilises. But some people plant theirs during the dry season – that is between January and March. However, the farmer who is planting at such period should be conscious of the sun; because the temperature would be high.
One of the recommended agronomy activities is that the farmer must mulch, meaning that he gets material and put on top of the heaps and also put sand so as to reduce the level of intensity of the sun on the yam heap. That should be done properly, otherwise, it would lead to the decay of the yam seedlings. Another advantage that people seize when they plant at this time is they feel it will encourage decay of yam material so that once rain stabilises, it would continue growth and development.
I will like to mention here that the more yam put in, the bigger the tuber. The more you give to the soil, the more you receive as far as yam is concerned. So we encourage those going into tuber production (as some are going into seedlings while others are interested in the tuber) to plant bigger sizes. But where the farmer only wants to multiply seeds or a particular variety, there would be no need for bigger tubers but to go into what we call, yam Millicent. Millicent is a technology that if you have tuber of yam that you are interested in multiplying; you slice it into smaller pieces and then prepare it and plant it.
When you slice a yam, agronomically, we believe you are wounding that yam so you need to protect it with something like wood-ash to allow it clot which prevents the seed from micro-organism. There are some other treatment too which can be used to treat the sliced yam.
What do you suggest as the best method of land preparation?
Land preparation for yam planting is also important because it is not a crop that likes so much water. Therefore, it is advisable that farmers make heaps or moulds. The water loving capacity of a crop usually determines why some are planted on ridges, heaps or plain land. For instance, rice loves more water than soybean and soybean loves more water than yam. Because of that you plant rice on flat ground, soybean on ridges and yam in moulds to aid the crops.
As a root crop, the farmer needs to prepare the land very well to enable root penetration. Since yam is a root crop, at a point, it wouldn’t want much water and that’s why timing is very important. If the place is water logged, the yam wouldn’t be able to expand and then, it wouldn’t produce well. We insist that the soil should be the one that is well drained so that at a particular point, the plant would be looking for more water, thereby, expanding and it would also cause the elongation of the roots and tubers. The soil also needs to be softened to aid the penetration for the crop.
Which are the best seed farmers should look for?
We already have enough varieties of yam in Benue for instance. These yams have local names. We have white yam, water yam and so on. It now depends on the farmers’ choice and reason for production; it is the end users that tells us which variety to produce. The farmer also needs to check the size of varieties good for his farm; he needs to find out if the seeds are good for his soil and the sensibility of the variety to the soil. But interested farmers can always get good seeds and varieties from the Federal University of Agriculture in Makurdi and the College of Agriculture in Yandev because the institutions are involved in the production of some of these varieties.
Yam seeds are costly at this period, what is the best way that farmers can go about it?
If the farmers buy yam seedlings that are expensive, they should buy small for that particular season and go into the Millicent technology I talked about earlier so that they could use one yam to multiply what they want. Then, the following year, they would have enough to plant. We don’t even encourage farmers to go into production of a particular crop and to produce such in large scale, because they need to study their crop, its performance before large production. Otherwise, the cost of seedlings would take all their money.
What is the best way for farmers to plant their seeds to avoid rot?
As said earlier, I will advise farmers to plant as soon as the rain stabilizes. Sometimes, even when the first rain comes, the heat in the soil is much but when the rain stabilizes, the temperature is favorable and the moisture content is enough for the crop to germinate.
Those planting now are going to wait till that period. They don’t actually have any serious advantage planting now, some of them just think that if they leave the seeds at home, their children would eat it or they would have more farming activities to do when the rains begin properly so they plant now. But you will not see any scientists planting yam now until rain stabilises.
What is the benefit of the new yam technology said to grow yam in the air?
The latest technology that scientists are working on is to convert yam vine into yam seedling. They want to move us to getting dual purposes from one strand of yam. What is harvested from above the crop would be used for planting and what is harvested from under would be used for consumption. The same way they use sweet potato stem.
Science is moving to such a level that very soon, we will start using yam stem to propagate and plant like sweet potato. That way, people would not be using what they are supposed to eat as planting material. But not all varieties of yam have that, there is ongoing development of varieties of yam for that purpose.
Source: Daily Trust