Plant virologist wants seed systems strengthened to boost crops quality

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Ibadan, Oyo.

Dr James Legg, a plant virologist, says strengthening seed systems for vegetatively-propagated crops (VPCs) is paramount in enhancing food productivity.

Legg stated this on Friday at the end of a three-day seed stakeholders’ workshop on improved productivity, held in Ibadan.

The virologist, a researcher at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, pointed out that improving the capacity of seed system’ actors was a critical part of this strengthening.

He said the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centre (CGIAR) organised the workshop so as to focus on improving access to VPC through the use of Seed Tracker.

Speaking on the relevance of VPCs, such as cassava, sweet potato, banana/plantain and yam, Legg declared: “VPCs are certainly among the most important crops being grown in sub-Saharan Africa.

“They represent key sources of dietary calories for hundreds of millions of Africans and are increasingly being processed for use in industrial applications.

“They even serve a vital cultural role in several parts of the continent —– with some of the best examples being yams in Nigeria and bananas in Uganda.

“In addition to their role as starchy staples, VPCs also represent important sources of nutrients, and dietary fibre.

“Africa is fast-tracking plans for the modernisation of its agriculture and enhancing the range of products available through processing and industrial development of agricultural commodities.

“Although, VPCs have received relatively less investment than other major staples, and this has held back their development.

“This does mean that there is tremendous potential for a more comprehensive industrial exploitation of these crops that will ultimately lead to broad-based economic development,” he said.

Legg, however, said that one of the key challenges which would need to be addressed if the potential of these crops is to be fully realised was the modernisation of seed systems.

“This is required to facilitate the delivery of new high-yielding varieties from national breeding programmes to farmers at the grassroots.”

He explained that seed system development varies greatly from country to country

”But there are currently no country or region where these systems are as functional, efficient or sustainable as those of the major cereals.”

The virologist charged all the workshop participants to make use of what they learnt during the training for the overall development of seed system.

On her part, Dr Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, a vegetative seed specialist working with IITA, urged seed farmers to have s seed production plan in place probably a year before the production cycle.

According to her, having the production plan in place however depends on the farmers capacity and resources available.

She said the workshop would immensely benefit the seed stakeholders, especially seed farmers, as they would have access to more relevant information now.

Diebiru-Ojo also said knowledge gained would help the farmers in terms of increased productivity and assist them to generate better source of income.

The workshop which began on Wednesday ended on Friday.

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