Last week, printer’s devil was at work in this column; the picture of amiable Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Prof. Ibrahim Garba was erroneously replaced with the picture of maize seeds and vice versa. The error is highly regretted. Now, continuation of the last week article.
The second IAR mandate crop is sorghum popularly called “guinea corn”. Sorghum is traditionally used for preparing evening meals in many households of north eastern Nigeria. However, sorghum is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water. Sorghum is known as a high-energy, drought-tolerant crop. Because of its versatility and adaptation, “sorghum is one of the really indispensable crops” required for animals feeds, brewing and production of ethanol. Sorghum produces the same amount of ethanol per bushel as comparable feed stocks and uses one third less water. In the livestock market, sorghum is used in the poultry, beef and pork industries. Stems and foliage are used for green chop, hay, silage, and pasture. In some parts of Nigeria, sorghum is primarily used in couscous. Various fermented and unfermented beverages are made from sorghum. It can be steamed or popped and is consumed as a fresh vegetable in some areas of the world. Syrup is made from sweet sorghum.
In the last 15 years, Ahmadu Bello University, through IAR and Plant Science Department has developed several varieties of sorghum to serve different purposes across the country. The prominent among these varieties are SAMSORG 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14 and 17. Others are SAMSORG 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44, respectively. Some of these improved varieties are semi -dwarf, creamed coloured seed, white coloured seed, resistant to major leaf diseases and pests, early maturity, striga resistant and many other good qualities against some environmental and climatic challenges. Outstanding characteristics of the varieties are non-photosensitive, excellent seed quality as in the case of SAMSORG 6, good palatability, highest yielding as in the case of SAMSORG 14 and excellent for composite flour as in the case of SAMSORG 38 and 39.
Good malting quality varieties were similarly developed and released such as SAMSORG 42, 43 and 44. Malt extract contents for these varieties were found to range from 65 percent to 78 percent. Similarly, they were found to be excellent for composite flour making. Another specialised variety of sorghum is CSR – 01 and CSR – 2, which are adaptable to northern Guinea savanna and southern Sudan savanna zones. The variety is resistant to major leaf diseases and highly tolerant to striga. The uniqueness of this variety is linked to being excellent for malting and confectionaries in addition to being a high quality seed. These last four varieties were developed specifically for industrial purposes, which our local foods and beverages industries should take advantage of instead of massive importation of Malta. These category of varieties are high yielding and open pollinated sorghums developed for Nigeria and the Sahelian region.
The second category of sorghum varieties are hybrids. Under this category, ABU has developed and released several varieties such as CSR – 03H, 04H, PRADHAN, MLSH 296 Gold, MLSH 151, PD86W15 and PD87W16. These are high yielding varieties with potential yield ranging from four to six tons per hectare, good malting and food qualities, tolerant to smut, leaf blight, sooty stripe, downey mildew, shoot fly and matured extra early. Some of the outstanding qualities are high germination energy of more than 90 percent and malt extra content of more than 70 percent.
Cotton is another IAR mandate crop, which the Institute has been vigorously working on. Cotton comes from cultivated plants from the genus Gossypium. They have been cultivated since ancient times for their fibres, which are used as textiles. Cotton is a part of our daily lives from the time we dry our faces on a soft cotton towel in the morning until we slide between fresh cotton sheets and pillows at night. Cotton has multiple uses, from blue jeans to shoe strings. Clothing and household items are the largest products of cotton, but industrial products account for the use of millions of tons of cottons on daily basis. Cotton has other, more surprising usages from medicines to mattresses to seed oil and even sausage skins. Example, U.S. textile mills presently consume approximately 7.6 million bales of cotton a year. Eventually, about 57 percent of it is converted into apparel, more than a third into home furnishings and the remainder into industrial products. Industrial products containing cotton are as diverse as wall coverings, book-bindings and zipper tapes. The biggest cotton users in this category, however, are medical supplies, industrial thread and tarpaulins. Cotton’s competitive share of U.S. produced textile end-uses shows a steady increase, presently standing at approximately 34 percent. Cotton’s share of the retail apparel and home furnishings market has grown from a historic low of 34 percent in the early 1970s to more than 60 percent today. Cotton is the major input of textile industries with hundreds of thousands of employees eking a living in many countries.
In the last 15 years, about 15 varieties of cotton were developed and released to the public by IAR, ABU Zaria. The varieties are Samcot 1, 2, 3, 4, up to 14. The outstanding characteristics of these cotton varieties are high yielding (1.5 to 2.0 tons per hectare), from early to medium maturity, tolerant to pest/diseases such as moderately resistant to bacterial blight, alternaria leaf spot. Some were developed for improved fibre length, medium staple cotton, fine lint and tolerant to salinity condition. These are features of good quality cotton targeted at meeting the demands of the textile industries in the country as well as exportation to neighbouring countries. The commercial cotton farmers should be happy with these varietal improvements.
The next IAR mandate crop is cowpea, popularly known as beans. Cowpea is one of the most important food legume crops in the semiarid tropics covering Asia, Africa, southern Europe, and Central and South America. It is a drought-tolerant and warm-weather crop. Cowpea is well-adapted to the drier regions of the tropics, where other food legumes do not perform well. The crop also has the useful ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through its root nodules, and it grows well in poor soils with more than 85% percent sand and with less than 0.2 percent organic matter and low levels of phosphorus.
In addition, it is shade tolerant, so it is compatible as an intercrop with maize, millet, sorghum, sugarcane, and cotton. This makes cowpea an important component of traditional intercropping systems, especially in the complex and elegant subsistence farming systems of the dry savannas in sub-Saharan Africa. In these systems, the dried stalks of cowpea is a valuable by-product, used as animal feed. Cowpea are used for the production of many Nigerian dishes such as bean cake, rice and beans mixture, moi-moi among others. Cowpea provides a rich source of protein and calories, as well as minerals and vitamins. On the average, a cowpea seed consist of 24.5 percent protein, fat 1.9 percent, fibre 6.3 percent, carbohydrate 63.6 percent and it is low in anti-nutritional factors. This diet complements the main cereal diet in Nigeria and Niger Republic where cowpeas are grown as a major food crop. According to literature, most cowpeas are grown on the African continent, particularly in Nigeria and Niger republic, which account for 66 percent of the world cowpea production. Despite this huge production in these countries, however, the major challenge to cowpea production is the low yield per hectare obtained by farmers.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations as of 2012, the average cowpea yield in Western Africa was an estimated 483 kg/ha, which is 50 percent below the estimated potential production yield of the crop especially in developed countries. In some tradition cropping methods, the yield was reported to be as low as 100 kg/ha. In addition to the low yield, the crop is highly prone and vunerable to pests and diseases especially during production and storage. Addressing these two major constraints against cowpea production are the main focus of cowpea varietal breeding by IAR, ABU Zaria. From 1979 to 2014, a total of fifteen cowpea varieties were developed and released to the stakeholders by the university. (To be continued next week)