Cassava Research Programme is one of the pioneer commodity crop programmes established at the inception of the institute in 1973. The mission of the programme as a component of the overall mission of the institute is to improve Cassava as a crop and its cultivation for sustainable food production, industrial uses and income generation. The programme has the statutory mandate to conduct research on varietal development that leads to high yield, disease and pest resistant and suitable for multi-purpose end uses through conventional and marker assisted breeding (MAS) techniques. The programme as an arm of the Institute is also responsible for promotion of cassava along the value chains by development of best-fit production packages for different agro-ecological niches or systems to optimize yield on farmers’ field. It also works in close collaboration with the sister Post Harvest Research
Programme for the development of various value added products as a way of diversification of cassava end uses beyond domestic but also industrial and international market. The research efforts of the programme in conjunction with the local and international partners have led to modest increase in national average yield on farmers’ field from 9-11t/ha to 15-25t/ha with Nigeria becoming the World largest producer of Cassava.
The Breeding objectives among others include:
- High fresh root yield, dry matter and starch contents.
- Resistance to major cassava pests- cassava mealy bugs (CMB), cassava green mite (CGM) and diseases- cassava mosaic disease (CMD), cassava bacterial blight (CBB) and cassava anthracnose disease (CAD).
- Compatibility with intercrops with legumes, cereals, vegetables and other crops in intercropping systems.
- Acceptable culinary qualities.
- Extended in-ground storage
- Reduced cyanogenic potential and
- Early maturity (8–10 months after planting)
- High Carotene and protein based varieties
- Drought tolerant varieties
Notable among the collaborating Institutions are:
- International Institute of tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria: a major collaborating institution in the development of improved cassava varieties, pre-emptive management of a severe form of CMD, Cassava Enterprise Development, HarvestPlus as it relates to beta carotene in cassava roots and Integrated Pest Management of whitefly-transmitted viruses of cassava and sweetpotato.
- Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (DDPSC), St. Louis, Missouri, USA in the area of genetic engineering to elevate resistance in farmers’ preferred cassava varieties but which are highly susceptible to CMD, and screening of farmers’ preferred varieties for possible bio-engineering to improve the protein content of cassava tubers, to reduce cyanogenic potential and to delay the deterioration of cassava tubers after harvest.
- Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia with focus on the use of simple low cost marker technology to pyramid useful genes for delayed post-harvest physiological deterioration of cassava in addition to maintaining resistance to the major pests and diseases.
- International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria for the conduct of research on the use of radiation to produce desirable mutants of cassava varieties.
- Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) funding drought tolerant cassava improvement and availability in Nigeria.
- Generation Challenge Programme(GCP) providing funds for many projects on cassava improvement in Africa including NRCRI, Nigeria.
- Raw Material Research Development Council, Abuja, Nigeria on research for early maturing (8– 10 months after planting) cassava varieties
- National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology Abuja Nigeria: in the area of genetic engineering for cassava variety development.
- Cornell University, Ithaca NY, USA: on the Next Generation Cassava Breeding (NEXTGEN Cassava) project which aims to significantly increase the rate of genetic improvement in cassava breeding to unlock the full potential of cassava. The project implements and is empirically testing a new breeding method known as genomic selection that relies on statistical modelling to predict cassava performance before field testing, and dramatically accelerates the breeding cycle.
- West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme: in funding multiplication of breeder and foundation seed stock for distribution to farmers.
- African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF): funding and partnership in the execution of Cassava Mechanization and Agro-Processing Project (CAMAP) in two pilot states in Nigeria.
- Combined efforts of NRCRI and IITA had led to the release of 46 improved cassava varieties to farmers in Nigeria which includes six beta carotene (Pro-Vitamin A) varieties and six early maturing varieties. The cultivation of these improved cassava varieties by farmers in Nigeria has enhanced the position of Nigeria as the world-leading producer of cassava.
- Development of best-fit agronomy packages to optimize yield on farmers field without adverse effect on soil substrate and environmental hazards. These include choice of stem cuttings as planting material, appropriate plant spacing for different cropping systems, use of appropriate fertilizer regimes and cost effective weed management.
- Integrated control of cassava mealybugs and green mites through the joint efforts of IITA and NRCRI.
- Development of cultural control measures for pests and diseases of cassava such as termites, cassava green mites and CMD.
- Identification of transgenic cassava plants with elevated resistance to CMD, Vit A, Fe and Zn under screen house condition at DDPSC, U.S.A. The plants are undergoing testing under field condition in Nigeria.
- Exotic germplasms with desirable traits such as PPD, protein, beta-carotene etc, have been introduced from the center of primary diversity to NRCRI for introgression and evaluation.
- The programme has been playing an active role in the Cassava transformation agenda of the Federal Government as a major key player in multiplication and distribution of improved planting materials, demonstration farms, development and evaluation of cassava varieties for High quality Cassava Flour (HQCF), distribution of input to farmers through the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) and provision of technical services to farmers.
Present Research Interest
- Increasing the protein content of cassava tubers
- Selection for high beta carotene content in cassava tubers
- Delay in post-harvest deterioration of cassava tubers
- Development of early maturing varieties
- Screening for CMD, CBB, CMB etc
- Breeding of varieties for good nutrition and that are drought resistant ?
- Development of bet-fit production packages for intensive production that is socially, economically and ecologically friendly.
- Encouragement of cassava-based industries for starch, flour, ethanol etc.
- Research focusing on removal of weak links along the value chain.