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Aeroponics system can ‘produce pest-free seed yams’

The aeroponics technology can aid in successful production of seed yams that are pest-resistence, a study at Nigeria’s International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has revealed

Researchers at IITA said that the soilless yam propagation system will increase the productivity of seed and reduce diseases.

Aeroponics system is the process of growing plants in air or mist-environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. The technology is currently being used by commercial potato seed producers in eastern African countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and southern African countries like Mozambique, Malawi, etc.

However, successfully growing seed yam on aeroponics is a boost for rapidly multiplying the much-needed clean seed yam tubers in large quantities, according to the researchers.

In preliminary trials, Dr Norbert Maroya, project manager for Yam Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) project at IITA, together with a team of scientists grew seed yam by directly planting vine cuttings in aeroponics system (AS) boxes to produce mini-tubers in the air.

Results have showed that vine rooting in aeroponics system had, at least, 95 per cent success rate compared to vine rooting in carbonised rice husk with a maximum rate of 70 per cent and the rooting time was much shorter in aeroponics system.

Maroya added, “With this approach, we are optimistic that farmers will begin to have clean seed yams for better harvest.”

Traditionally, seed yam production is expensive and inefficient. Farmers save about 25 to 30 per cent of harvest for planting the same area in the following season. However, these seeds are often infested with pathogens that significantly reduce farmers’ yield year after year.

Researchers said that with an established aeroponics system for seed yam growth, yam producers can have access to clean seed yams.

Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA director for Western Africa, said, “Yam is an important crop in Africa and addressing the seeds’ constraint will go a long way in improving the livelihoods of farmers who depend on the crop for their livelihood.”