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Farmers renew efforts on off-season crop planting

Two farmers in Ikorodu, Lagos State, have identified poor scientific research efforts by relevant government institutions as a factor that undermines off-season crop production in Nigeria.

The farmers told newsmen on Monday that universities of agriculture were also not doing enough to improve off-season cultivation in the country.
They, therefore, called for intensified efforts by all stakeholders to enhance off-season cultivation to boost farmers’ productivity.

Off-season planting is the cultivation of crops outside their usual cropping calendar and weather conditions such as temperature and rainfall that permit normal growth.
One of the farmers, Mr Onuchi Eze, who grows yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkin leaf and okro, urged the government at all levels to resuscitate the use of agricultural extension officers in the country.

He said that the extension officers should be able to reach out to small and medium scale farmers and educate them on crop production techniques so as to boost food production.

“I cannot remember the last time an extension officer from the ministry of agriculture came to a meeting of our cooperative society so as to educate us on any agricultural practice. It has been too long.

“Does this mean that no new thing, which can aid our productive capacity, has been discovered?
“It means that nothing is really happening in the area of research and development,’’ he said.

Eze said that Nigeria was naturally endowed to sustain off-season crop production, adding, however, that such capacity was diminishing due to poor zeal for innovation on the part of research institutes.
“We, the grassroots farmers, are not feeling the impact of all the agriculture institutes by way of new ideas and improved inputs to enhance our farming,’’ he said
Another farmer, Mr John Odouh, who grows cassava, corn, cucumber and vegetables, said that the country’s universities of agriculture might still be teaching traditional systems of crop production.

“We see nothing new when our farmers’ cooperative society sponsored us to observe some farms that are owned by higher institutions in Lagos and Ogun states.
“We did not see any off-season crop being grown on those farms.
“For many of us on those excursions, we wanted to learn about how to do more off-season planting, as a stimulus to our study projects,’’ he said.

Odouh said that it was imperative for the government at all levels to increase its investment in research and development projects, particularly in efforts to attain sustainable off-season production of tuber, grains and vegetables.

He said that the food security problems facing Nigeria could not be addressed “if we continue with the traditional seasonal crop production’’.
He said that innovative planting of crops across all seasons was the in-thing in advanced economies, adding that Nigeria should embrace the method as well. (NAN)

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