Institute harps on partnerships in cropping

Agriculture

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THE Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, Oyo State is increasing breeding and agronomy to boost productivity  and cropping. It is championing research on production practices and technologies for managing cropping systems. It is determined to help Nigerians shift to developing viable enterprises for farm products. IAR&T Executive Director Prof Veronica Obatolu said these at a seminar for the institute’s workers  in Ibadan. The seminar had as theme “A paradigm shift in IAR$T’s agriculture for food and nutrition security.” With more research, she said, crops could contribute significantly to food and nutrition security, agricultural sustainability, and reduced climate change risks. This, however, according to her, could only be achieved in a research community with strong cooperation and partnerships across academic, government, and private sector research systems. She explained that interactions among geneticists, pathologists, breeders, agronomists, environmental scientists, and social scientists are essential to developing better cropping systems that better manage diseases and pests, optimise fertiliser use, and build agro biodiversity. Obatolu said the institute would bring together scientists, producers, food industry, policy makers with a focus on real world-knowledge needs. She said the institute would group experts to   work on many dimensions of crop production and consumption. She said the institute was determined to promote climate-smart agriculture, disseminate innovative and agricultural best practices and knowledge. Obatolu said the institute would promote farm enterprises across value chains as well as help Nigerians build businesses that generate employment. She said the institute would continue to give technical assistance and skills-building support to strengthen producers to diversify into high value farm commodities, such as commercial crops and livestock products, and fisheries. She regretted that a lot of Nigerians were dying yearly due to “hidden hunger and lack of micro elements in their daily diets”. According to her, every Nigerian has the right to adequate food, both in quality and in quantity, to satisfy his/her dietary needs. “Health comes from the farm and not from the pharmacy. Agriculture has its important role in fighting malnutrition; our soil and the fertiliser strategy must enhance human nutrition and food security”, she stressed. Reiterating the commitment of IAR&T to agric research, Obatolu promised that the institute would continue to strive to engender safe and adequate food for the growing population of Nigerians and provide the necessary technology for environmental sustainability. “Our focus should be on the efficiency and effectiveness of technology and also to have innovative thinking to address institutional barriers to technology change,” she said. Besides, IAR&T is seeking partnership  with the publishing industry for the local production of Kenaf, a multipurpose crop for producing newsprint. Operating margins of print media firms have declined due to a rise in the cost of newsprint, which accounts for 50  per cent of their total cost. Materials for producing newsprint are being imported. Experts have been  reseraching new raw materials for pulp and paper-making. Obatolu  told The Nation the institute conducts research into the genetic improvement of kenaf and jute production as part of its mandate. Domestic demand for newsprint is constrained by lack of local production and the high cost of imported paper. To save the newspapers, she said the institute is encouraging farmers to grow kenaf, but will need private sector support  for the crop to be  mass-produced the way paper trees are on big plantations .Renowned professor of animal husbandry of the Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Prof Funsho Sonaiya, urged researchers in agricultural research institutes to collaborate in finding innovative solutions to the problem of hunger in the country instead of giving excuses. Prof Akinloye Farinde from Agricultural Extension Department in OAU also admonished Nigerian researchers to come out with ideas capable of solving problems being faced by smallholder farmers.

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