Finally! The breeding of cassava can now be done with ease through the application of the technology called, the Semi-Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH). SAH involves using modified soil which holds plant roots in planting pots with little water.
Usually the trays are filled with a little amount of water, and the soil transports the moisture up to the plant roots, yet the top of the soil remains quite dry; the roots are encouraged to grow down, and the dry soil on top discourages damp-off and other diseases caused by excess moisture.
This amazing cassava technology is a brain child of the project: Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Seed System for Cassava (BASICS) which is currently being used Nigeria and already adopted in Argentina.
No doubt, cassava is an important crop for both food security and wealth creation, and grown by more than 500 million people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The root crop is a source of commercial animal feed, fiber for paper and textile manufacturers, and starch for food and pharmaceutical industries.
Meanwhile, SAH is expected to have a significant impact on the ability of early generation seed business to quickly bring suitable varieties within the reach of farmers and capable of addressing the constraints of slow and low multiplication ratio in cassava seed system, of which it also embodies the ability to produce clean planting cassava materials that are disease-free.
While acknowledging the benefits of this technology, Dr Peter Kulakow, a cassava breeder with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), stated that the beauty of the technology was its rapid multiplication ratio and cheaper cost of production that is sure in comparison to tissue culture.
“Usually when breeders develop new cassava varieties, the challenge is how to multiply and disseminate to farmers. Cassava is a clonal crop and multiplication is done using stems, this process takes several years,’’ he said.
Dr Kulakow however confirmed that this explains in part why it takes long for new improved varieties to be disseminated at large scale to farmers.
Also, BASICS project is also working with National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) and Fera of United Kingdom to improve the quality certification system in Nigeria.