Cocoyam Research Programme is one of the seven crop-based progammes at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike. Cocoyam was recognized as a major crop by the defunct Biafran government in 1969. Effective research on cocoyam started in Nigeria in 1976, when it became one of the mandate crops of the Institute charged with the study and holistic improvement of important root and tuber crops in Nigeria. Cocoyam (Colocasia esculenta (taro) and Xanthosoma mafafa (tannia) is cultivated mainly for its corms and cormels. It ranks third in importance after cassava and yam among the root and tuber crops cultivated and consumed in Nigeria. However, it is popularly called the ‘Nigeria’s Giant Crop’ because it is nutritionally superior to other roots and tubers in Nigeria and the gigantic size of variety NXs 003. Nigeria is the largest producer of cocoyam in the world with an annual production of 5.49 million metric tonnes, equivalent to 45.9 % of world production and 72.2 % total output of cocoyam in West Africa. The crop is popularized through cocoyam rebirth. Cocoyam (giant crop) choir thrills audience with three cocoyam songs composed by Dr Godwin .O. Chukwu during important agro and cultural events.
(a) to develop new genotypes, improve and promote landraces with highly desirable food and industrial qualities; (b) to develop and promote genotypes with high aesthetic values for landscaping and environmental management; (c) to multiply healthy planting materials for dissemination to farmers; (d) to develop low-input, socially acceptable, environmentally sound and economically viable technologies; and (e) to develop environmentally-friendly strategies for the control of pre-and post-harvest pests and diseases.
Due to concerted efforts of scientists in the Institute, the following remarkable progress in technology development has been recorded as advancement in cocoyam research.
- Control of taro leaf blight with the use of fungicides
- Development of true cocoyam seeds
- The Institute was able to erase this negative mental attitude and built a positive mental attitude (rebranding) through Cocoyam Rebirth Initiative.
- This involved aggressive advocacy about the nutritional advantages of cocoyam in terms of higher protein and mineral contents, and higher digestibility over cassava and yam, as well as a cure of diabetes, people’s interest was aroused.
- This was followed by the launching of Cocoyam Consumption Awareness (COCAWAC), production of cocoyam rebirth T-shirts, caps, car sticker, wall clocks, flags and school cocoyam project.
- Others are radio and TV talks, demonstration of Gocken Rapid Multiplication Technology (GRMT) on farmers’ farmers and farmer participatory research.
- Increased Germplasm: The genetic base has been increased by 55.6%.
- Gocken Rapid Multiplication Technology (GRMT): Drastic reduction in seed outlay (rate) from 1-2 t/ha in minisett to 3 ± 0.15 t/ha. Cost of planting material is reduced by 90 %. Total yield could be increased from 6-7 t/ha in farmers’ field to 15-25 t/ha. Seed harvest multiplication ratio could range from 19-70 with available yield of over 85 %
- Improved Agronomic Practices
- Gocing Cocoyam Barn: Rot is also reduced by 60-70%.
DR. JOSEPH T. ONYEKA