International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) says a silent revolution is happening in Nigeria’s yam production systems as pebble-sized seed tubers, known as minitubers by researchers and “chin-chin” yam by farmers affiliated with the Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA II), could change how yam is produced in the country.
This follows the experiences of some farmers and seed entrepreneurs like Mohammed Isa Galadima from Paiko Local Government Area of Niger State.
Galadima attested to the productivity of the minitubers, noting that he harvested tubers ranging from 0.75 g to 2.2 kg during an Open Day at IITA-Abuja Station. The participants saw ware yam tubers of about 2.5 kilograms grown from minitubers.
YIIFSWA-II Seed System Specialist, Beatrice Aighewi, said “although we are promoting the production of the minitubers for certified seed production, it is good that farmers see the potential of these quality seeds. They can produce big tubers if they are well managed and stay in the field long enough to bulk.”
Narrating his experience of cultivating the minitubers and their benefits, Galadima said “during last year’s stakeholder meeting, Aighewi of YIIFSWA showed us minitubers that can be used to produce yam. I laughed when I saw them because they were as small as chin-chin (a popular snack) or even beans. So, I asked, how can these “chin-chin” yams grow?”
Despite their disbelief, he experimented with the tubers on his field after Aighewi encouraged them to try them out. “Since it was from IITA, I collected some to try on my field. I stored them and checked consistently to see if they would sprout.
‘’When the rains started, an eye came out, so I quickly took them to the field, made mounds, and planted them. The harvest was amazing. I got large tubers from them’’, he said.
Galadima noted that though the minitubers are for seed production, farmers can adopt the “chin-chin” yam for ware yam production. Their performance in the field is because they are disease-free and clean, and of good quality.
“When they sprout, they have high vigor, so they do well and give you what you want. You don’t need big setts to give you big tubers again. They all germinate, and as a farmer, that gives me peace to know that it will germinate when I plant my seed.
‘’That is not the case with seeds bought from the local market. Some seed setts don’t even germinate, and the productivity is very low’’, said Galadima.
“I am happy with this development, especially now that we’re looking to export yam. It is also cost-effective for the farmer and seed producers. You don’t need to use trucks to transport seed tubers anymore. You can easily transport what you need to plant a hectare in a small bag. It’s amazing.”
Galadima thanked YIIFSWA for developing various efficient yam propagation technologies that have helped him meet farmers’ demands as a seed yam producer.
“The availability of seed has been our problem, but the solutions and developments from IITA have solved every problem in yam production’’, he concluded.