Stakeholders in the cassava value chain last week brainstormed on the effective ways to manage viruses and diseases that are hindering improved yield on cassava in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region.
Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer, responsible for 45million tons annually of which only 10 per cent is processed compared to over 50 per cent in other major producing countries.
Nigeria accounts for zero per cent of the trade of value added cassava products as Thailand which only produces 10 per cent of global cassava, accounts for 80 per cent of the trade in its value added products.
The three day stakeholders workshop was organised by the West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for Root and Tuber Crops (WAVE Nigeria 1: Covenant University Hub), had in attendance farmers, researchers, agricultural institutions, quarantine agencies among others in the cassava value chain.
Dr. Angela Eni, Team Leader, WAVE for root and tuber crops, Covenant University Hub, stated that the first phase of the project is to address virus diseases that infect cassava.
She said the essence of the forum is to inform, enlighten farmers and others in the cassava value chain on the symptoms on this virus and diseases and proffer measures to control the spread whenever it is noticed on any farm.
Describing cassava as the food security crop for Africa consumed by over 800million people, she informed that the story of cassava is that it can be grown on every type of soil and almost everywhere across the country and cassava is drought tolerant.
Observing that the present yield is the volume that is enough to feed the teeming population, she said that regrettably there are viruses, diseases that affect the tubers low yields.
“There is a new virus that is not present in West Africa, but it is ravaging cassava in East and Central Africa it is called Cassava Brown Streak Virus,”
She said one of the big objectives of WAVE project which is happening across West African countries is to ensure the continued exclusion of Cassava Brown Streak from West Africa.
“Though it is not found in West Africa yet, but if it does happen at all, we want to make sure that West Africa is prepared to respond rapidly so that we do not get a repeat of what happened during the Ebola crisis, if we are ready then the virus will be contained and quickly dealt with and it will not disseminate,” she said.
In his presentations Dr. I.U Mohammed, the Team Leader PEARL and Dean Faculty of Agriculture Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, Aliero (KSUSTA), while presenting a paper tagged: “Towards Ensuring Food Security In West Africa: Combating Cassava Virus Diseases” identified the major cassava prone viruses as; Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD); caused by cassava mosaic viruses and the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) cause by cassava brown streak viruses.
Speaking further, he disclosed that the CMD affects and causes significant economic loss for farmers in the range of 70 per cent poor yield.
He said the discolouration caused by the disease makes the infected plant less productive resulting in large cassava tubers with pitiable yield.
According to him, CMD is caused by two virus species called Cassava Mosaic Virus (CMV), adding that the major species of CMV are: African cassava mosaic virus (ACMV) and East African cassava mosaic virus (EACMV).
Speaking further he said Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is another devastating disease caused by cassava brown streak virus and results in reduced cassava production and quality yield losses of up to 100 percent.
The disease, according to him, hampers the photosynthetic capacity of the affected plants resulting in reduced yield and numbers.
Speaking on the symptoms of the CBSD, he advised farmers to be on the lookout for; leaf chlorosis, plant die back, streak line on the stem, necrosis and rottening.
He said the symptoms of CBSD are not easily recognised by untrained or inexperienced persons and may be delayed, saying that the disease can be spread through two major ways; insect vectors; White flies which suck plant sap from an infected cassava plant can transmit the viruses to a healthy plant during feeding and also planting of infected cassava stem.
Mohammed stated further that planting cassava stem that is already infected with either CMD or CBSV means that the growing cassava will also be infected.
Speaking on control measures, he advised the farmers to use clean cassava planting materials, observe appropriate planting date which according to him falls during the rainy season and not dry season.
He also advised farmers to do regular weeding for the first four months after planting and also ensure that the cassava field is always kept clean.
“The disease can be controlled by use of cassava stem that is resistant to virus diseases for planting. Two to three months after planting, farmers should uproot and burn all plants showing cassava mosaic disease symptoms and this will prevent the disease already spread in the whole field,” he added.
Also, Dr. S.A Kazeem who represented the Coordinating Director, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS) Dr. Vincent Isegbe, stated that the negative impact on affected countries suggest prevention as the best approach to exclusion of cassava viral diseases not found in Nigeria.
He said this requires the collaboration of all stakeholders, strict implementation of phytosanitary measures, voluntary compliance, and early warning system to prevent spread.
In another development, Pastor Segun Adewumi, National President Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA) has affirmed that cassava can produce ethanol, industrial starch, sweetener which Nigeria expends over N2trillion in foreign currency.
In his presentation at the conference, he said Nigeria imports over 97 per cent of its Ethanol at the cost of over N700billion annually, import industrial starch for over N400billion and that the white wheat bread that we depend on can accommodate 40 per cent cassava flour and save over N350 billion from importation of wheat into the country.
Adewumi said the country has 84million hectares of arable land and using modern technology for cassava cultivation with a yield of 40 metric tons of cassava per hectare will produce 200 million metric tonnes of cassava using five million hectares.
He added that if milled into industrial starch it will generate 50million metric tonnes of industrial starch.
“As of today industrial starch sells in Nigeria for N300, 000 per ton and that means N15trillion additional income to Nigeria. It can also mean full employment for five million farmers, service providers, skilled and unskilled factory workers.