On-farm demonstrations in Ogun State under the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture- managed Cassava Weed Management Project have produced average yields of 27 tonnes per hectare, surpassing the national average of about eight tonnes/ha.

A statement from the IITA on Thursday noted that the demos were conducted in 2016 in the three senatorial districts of the state, using an integrated weed control package developed by the IITA-CWMP.

The statement quoted a scientist at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Dr. Patience Olorunmaiye, while presenting the results during the Joint Quarterly Review Meeting of the project in Abeokuta, as saying that the yields from the demonstration plots were impressive and a proof of concept, adding that if farmers adopted improved weed management practices, they would be better off.

The highest yield from the demonstration farms was 32 tonnes/ha with 96 per cent of the demonstration farms recording more than 20 tonnes/ha, the statement indicated.

The Principal Investigator of IITA-CWMP, Prof. Friday Ekeleme, was quoted as saying that the results clearly showed that weeds were a major factor limiting the potential of cassava in Africa.

The statement said, “In the last four years, the IITA-CWMP with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made a bold decision to unravel the puzzle of weeds menace in cassava.

“Working with a coalition of partners including the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, University of Agriculture Makurdi, the National Root Crops Research Institute, and extension partners, the team set up trials in the three agro-ecological zones of the country: the humid forest, derived savannah and the southern guinea savannah.

“These trials led to the selection of safe and environmentally friendly herbicides with other agronomic practices that formed the package that was used in setting up the demos in Ogun and other states of Nigeria (Abia, Benue and Oyo). Results from the other states are also being compiled for analysis.”

Ekeleme said the results from Ogun State indicated that the project was achieving one of its major objectives, which was to double the national average yield of cassava, generate wealth, and reduce the burden of weeding in cassava farming systems.

Grown by over 4.5 million people in Nigeria, cassava is a major staple contributing to food security and wealth of the nation. Although Nigeria is a major producer of the root crop, accounting for over 54 million tonnes per annum, average yield per ha is low with weeds being fingered as a major block.