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Why we’re equipping farmers for dry season cowpea production – AATF

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has said attention must be given to cutting-edge agricultural technology that would increase the incomes and nutritional security of…

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has said attention must be given to cutting-edge agricultural technology that would increase the incomes and nutritional security of African farmers.

Nigeria must advance beyond one-season production, according to Dr Emmanuel Okogben, the director of the AATF’s Programme Development and Commercialisation, who was speaking at a training session for seed businesses in Kaduna to prepare them for dry season cowpea cultivation.

Dr Okogben said the AATF would continue to support agricultural innovation through public-private partnerships, and counseled seed companies to utilise dry season output to supplement wet season production in order to ensure that farmers have an appropriate supply of Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) cowpea seed. He added that farmers had been informed of the product’s advantages and are eagerly awaiting more certified PBR cowpea seed from seed suppliers.

He expressed gratitude to the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) for the cooperation that led to the development of the PBR cowpea.

In addition, Professor Ishiyaku Mohammed, the executive director of IAR in Zaria, praised the cooperation with the AATF, which resulted in the creation and introduction of Nigeria’s first genetically modified crop.

“Nigeria is now a reference point in the area of biotechnology products in Africa, and we must continue to scale up production of this technology to make it available to farmers.

The PBR resistant cowpea is a classic example of how technology can provide solutions to one of the major challenges confronting cowpea farming,” he said.

Mohammed noted that for many years, plant breeders tried without success to find solution to the ravaging attacks of Maruca, but the “collaboration between the AATF and IAR led to the development of this great technology.”

He said seed companies were pivotal to the commercialisation of the PBR cowpea project and there was need for constant capacity building. “The PBR cowpea is a huge success in the biotechnology space in Nigeria and more seed companies are eager to take up the product. There are testimonies from farmers in terms of high yield, resistance to pod borer, improved income because of planting the PBR cowpea,” he said.

He enjoined the participants to fully take advantage of the training, which will build their capacity in PBR seed production. He also encouraged the participants to always contact the AATF/IAR for further questions/clarifications.

All the 9 seed companies licensed to market the PBR cowpea attended the training, which saw presentation from Dr Seydou Traore, Regional Energy Advisor, United States African Development Foundation, amongst others.

Where to use human waste as fertiliser and irrigation 

One possible alternative, or maybe supplement, is in biosolids, which are basically heavily processed human poop. Human waste is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the key ingredients of most fertilisers, and for hundreds of years, with varying levels of success, farmers have been using it as fertiliser. But what if it can be more?

Typically, biosolids are processed into well solids; they look like any other black fertiliser. But a new study from the University of Illinois looks at something a little bit different: wastewater. When treated, wastewater includes both water and the fertilising nutrients, and could conceivably create a two-birds-one-stone situation: irrigation and fertilization.

The issue with using wastewater, as opposed to biosolids, is that water is comparatively heavy to cart around, and because it is diluted with water, the fertiliser content is not nearly as dense. That could make it more expensive – possibly prohibitively so. But the researchers analysed 56 large cities across six continents and found that there are places where this application makes sense.

Wastewater is produced in the greatest quantity per area in cities (more people, more waste. From the study: “Broadly, locations with high cropland density, nutrient-intensive crops, and compact urban area may find agricultural nutrient reuse, particularly impactful and achievable.

“So, what we are looking for is a dense but compact urban area surrounded by lots of farmland, without too much forest or mountain or other non-farm rural land. New York is not great for this; it is dense but the area surrounding the city is not primarily farmland. But a city like Chicago or Cairo is perfect for this: it won’t cost much in transportation to haul treated wastewater to nearby farms, of which there are lots.”

One issue not addressed by the study is whether we are properly treating biosolids in the first place. Biosolids are used in all 50 states, but some scientists think the regulations are far too lax, neglecting to look for many metals and other chemicals that could be present in the waste. This study doesn’t address that, but if those concerns can be addressed, this research could provide a way to use less artificial fertiliser.

Source: Modern Farmer

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