PROF. Alex Akpa, Director-General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), has said that the agency had unfolded programmes capable of producing about five million yam seedlings.
Akpa said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Wednesday in Abuja that this could be achieved through aeroponics technology for farmers across Nigeria mostly during the present COVID-19 lockdown era.
He added that it had become imperative because the technique was much more sensitive and reliable than the conventional method, and it ensured a much healthier yield being a modern tool for food production.
He said the deployment of agricultural biotechnology would also reduce drudgery and improve resistance to pest and diseases.
The Director-General stressed that biotechnology was the use of biological processes or organisms for the improvement of the characteristics of plants, animals, micro-organisms or food derived thereof.
He said this was not limited to modification and enhancement of living organisms at the molecular level, frequently dubbed as “modern biotechnology”.
“Last year through biotechnology, one million seedlings were produced which were distributed to farmers for cultivation.
Speaking further on the contributions of his agency toward national development, the director-general disclosed that NABDA had more than 31 bioresources development centres across the country.
“These centres are charged with the responsibilities of harnessing and developing the bioresources of their immediate communities in order to impact the lives of the people.
“This impact comes through job and wealth creation as well as empowerment of women and youth,’’ Akpa said.
Similarly, he noted that the agency had six centres of excellence located in the premier universities in the six geopolitical zones of the country, all charged with separate mandates.
“In addition, the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), established in 1987 and backed by decree 33 of 1987, is now part of NABDA.
“The centre regulates the seed, livestock and fisheries industries through its Varietal Release Committees,’’ he said.
Akpa added that NACGRAB also conducted researches, gathered data and disseminated technological information on matters relating to genetic resources conservation, utilisation and biotechnology applications.
According to him, NABDA through NACGRAB had released hundreds of improved varieties of crops, livestock and fisheries, being the main secretariat of the National Varietal Release Committee (NVRC).
“In 2018, NABDA in partnership with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Bayer and Mahyco Agricultural Nigeria Ltd., concluded the development, commercialisation and deployment of two new varieties of Biotech (BT) Cotton,’’ he said.
The professor stated that the two varieties were transgenic hybrid cotton which were high yielding and tolerant to bollworm complex that destroyed cotton bolls.
He said both varieties were expected to meet the challenges of raw material supply in the textile industry.
Akpa assured that cotton was Nigeria’s crops of pride since it reflected one of the national needs and efforts towards transforming the industry.
“With well over 180 million Nigerians needing textile for clothing and other products, cotton lint, a raw material for textile manufacturing, has been a major item on the Nigerian import list.
“Today we have set the stage for self-sufficiency in the production of cotton as industrial raw material with the subsequent transformation of the textile industry,’’ he said.
He expressed optimism that the private sector, including seed companies, textile industries and ginneries would complement the commitments by taking up the challenges of full-scale commercial deployment. (NAN)