Institute of Agriculture releases 200 crop varieties

In its 100 years of operation, Ahmadu Bello University’s Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) has released more than 200 crop varieties to increase food.

21 improved cowpea varieties, 29 groundnut varieties, 69 maize, 56 sorghum, four sunflower, 17 cotton, seven millet, five wheat, 12 tomato, three soyabean, two sesame, and oats were among them.

The effort has been consistent, according to a statement from Auwalu Umar, Director of the Public Affairs Directorate at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria (ABU).

According to him, the, national potential yield of maize has increased from less than 2tonne (t)/hectare (ha) to up to 9t/ha, sorghum from less than 1t/ha to 2.5t/ha, and cowpea 0.5t/ha to 2.7t/ha.

According to the statement, farmers in the subregions of West and Central Africa have been using some of the institute’s innovations. For example, the statement claimed that farmers in the Niger Republic, Mali, and Cameroon cultivate a large number of its cowpea and groundnut types.

He mentioned the other innovations developed by the institute, such as better irrigation techniques for producing food during the dry season while conserving water, and the selection of appropriate crops and their kinds for irrigation. This is in addition to the money spent on research to create new food items that cater to the tastes of modern consumers.

He stated that after 100 years of being a leading and powerful research organisation, IAR will concentrate on creating and advancing climate-smart farming methods that can improve climate change resilience.

It said: “Research efforts can also be directed towards developing food and drought-tolerant crop varieties, sustainable management techniques and climate-resilient farming systems.

“The institute must embrace emerging digital technologies such as precision agriculture, remote sensing, and data analytics which can revolutionize farming practices.

“It can explore the use of these technologies to optimize resource use, improve crop monitoring and enhance decision-making for farmers.

“Equally, IAR can play a key role in strengthening agricultural value chains by focusing on post-harvest value chains by focusing on post-harvest management, processing and market linkages.

“And research can be conducted to develop efficient storage and processing techniques, promote value-added products and facilitate market access for farmers.”

To celebrate its 100 years, the Director, Public Affairs Directorate, ABU, SAID institute held a public lecture, book launch, awards presentation ceremony.

Highpoint of the celebrations was the awards presentation of a posthumous award to the Principal Private Secretary to the Premier of Northern Nigeria Sir Ahmadu Bello, Alhaji Hassan Lemu, for vehemently supporting the transfer or affiliation of all research institutes in the North to the newly established University of the North, later called Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Lemu argued that staff availability, teaching, and research needs of both the institute staff and students would be better taken care of. This was against the wish of the British colonialists who argued that the affiliation would be counterproductive by derailing the vision of the institute and creating bureaucratic bottleneck, as well as underfunding which could impair its smooth functions.

The centenary lecture, ‘Agricultural Research, Technology and Innovation as Catalysts for National Development: Impact on Poverty, Food and Economy Security in Nigeria in the 21st Century”, was given by former Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Secretary to the Borno State Government, Malam Bukar Tijjani.

The lecture dwelled on the pivotal role that the agricultural research, technology, and innovation played in Nigeria’s social, economic, and political landscape.

The minister, particularly, acknowledged the central role played by IAR in alleviating poverty, especially in its original mandate in the Savannah ecology which covers Nigeria’s approximately 600,000 square kilometers out of the 924,000 square kilometers of total land area.

He clearly pointed out that the institute had ensured food security, nutrition for all, and strengthened Nigeria’s economic growth and agricultural development at the early stages of its establishment and well into the 1970s.

The Vice-Chancellor, ABU, Prof. Kabiru Bala, commended the IAR’s outgoing Executive Director, Prof. Muhammad Faguji Ishiyaku and other management staff of the institute for the remarkable organisation of the centenary celebrations in the face of scarcity of funds.

Bala, who noted that the history of ABU would be incomplete without IAR, urged the Federal Government to adopt the IAR and ABU Faculty of Agriculture model of research and teaching by introducing the research and teaching component to all tertiary institutions, especially the universities, for effective learning by students.