Sweetpotato programme is one of the seven crop –based programme at the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike. Active research in sweetpotato commenced in the late 70’s. However, prior to this period, the crop was mostly seen as a volunteer or discard crop the children picked mostly around refuse dump sites. The consumption of sweetpotato then was surrounded by the erroneous idea that it caused amoebic dysentery.
With active research over the years, there has been a tremendous improvement on the cultivation of the crop which has largely contributed to the agricultural /food economy of the nation.
The programme has the national mandate of genetic improvement of sweetpotato, production of improved production packages that will sustain high yield, formulation of disease and pest management strategies, development of post–harvest technologies and the extension of findings to end users through established channels.
HIGHLIGHTS OF RESEARCH ACHIVEMENTS:
- Two new orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties with high carotenoid contents and one white-fleshed variety have been released in the last 2years.
- Purple-fleshed sweetpotato clones with high anthocynin (powerful antioxidant) have been developed at the NRCRI.
- Sweetpotato varieties that are good for fresh fries, fry products and kunnu are identified.
- Development of hybrid seeds through open pollination.
- Introduction and selection of elite varieties for various ecological and uses in Nigeria.
- Development and release of 2 orange-fleshed Sweetpotato with high β carotene (a precursor for pro-vitamin A) that can improve the nutritional wellbeing of Nigerians.
- Development of improved agronomic packages for higher yield per unit area.
- Development of “2-node cutting and grooving techniques for rapid generation of planting materials”.
- Development of dry season irrigated sweetpotato nursery technique for the conservation of planting materials during the dry season since most sweetpotato fields dry up in the dry season.
- Development of cultural and botanical insecticides technologies for the management of sweetpotato weevils, Cylas, and Bemisia tabaci which are major insect pests of sweetpotato.
- Development of techniques to increase post-harvest shelf-life of sweetpotato roots by 3-4 months in moist saw dust as against 2-4 weeks if not properly stored.
- Development of various recipes and blends for different utility purposes.
- Introduction of three (3) forage varieties for livestock farmers.
- Development of appropriate weed control measure to improve sweetpotato yield
- Development of appropriate fertilizer rates and use efficiency to increase yield
- Development of improve fallow systems for sustainable sweetpotato production using mucuna species.
Goals/projection of research programme
The sweetpotato programme has the major focus on creating health and wealth in Nigeria through the following interventions;
- The release of proven varieties that meet the farmers’ preference in terms of food quality and quantity is being intensified. The availability of orange fleshed sweetpotato in Nigeria will reduce Vitamin A deficiency among the under-fives, pregnant and lactating mothers. The deficiency level in Nigeria is put at 29.9%
- The challenges associated with reduced shelf life of sweetpotato are currently being addressed through conducting both in-ground and on-shelf storage experiments and also improving on indigenous storage method.
- Pest and disease incidence has been a major constraint in sweetpotato production. Major intervention is through the release of pest and disease tolerant varieties with good yield. It is expected that with the current efforts, new varieties will be released in 2015/16 beading cycle. Also field studies involving the use of botanicals and cultural methods to combat incidence of sweetpotato weevils are focused on.
- The programme intends to strengthen the sweetpotato value chain which will create entrepreneurship and improve income of the rural farmer. Awareness creation and market linkage activities will be our focal points
- Packages tailored towards creating good environment for increased productivity through appropriate weed control measures and fertilizer (organic and inorganic) use efficiency are on-going
- Abstracting of published articles on sweetpotato in Nigeria
- International Potato Center (CIP) Peru
- Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Abuja,
- Agricultural Development Program (ADP) of States,
- Potato Farmers Association (POFAN)
- Potato Growers, Growers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (POGMAN),
- Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
DR. E. N. NWAOGU