Much talk about seeds

Before now, many people including me never knew the importance of seeds. However, a different perspective was introduced by an expert for better appreciation of seeds. Without seed, there cannot be life. This was the position of the 61st inaugural lecturer of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, Prof. Dupe Akintobi of the Department of Plant Breeding and Seed Technology, College of Plant Science and Crop Production (COLPLANT).

The Inaugural Lecturer, who is a Professor of Seed Science and Technology, stated that for profitable agricultural business and farming enterprise to take firm root in Nigeria, as a way of making agriculture the mainstay of the country’s economy, much effort should be concentrated at acquiring high quality seeds that are genetically-pure and free from seed-borne diseases while also ensuring best environment. The title of the lecture was “Seed: Source of Life, Prosperity and Pain”.

According to Prof. Akintobi, any agribusiness entrepreneur, who does not adequately factor seed as a critical input in the crop production cycle in determining the upper limit of the entire production output, is not in for a serious business. She enumerated the major production constraints to include inadequate supply of certified seeds, poor government policy, varietal erosion, exploitation by seed dealers, illiteracy, poor seed storage infrastructure and the avalanche of fake seeds in the market. “There is even a new scenario now where people sell fake seeds, but thank God for the National Seeds Council of Nigeria (NASC), which has nipped this in the bud by getting the government to sign the seed bill into law in Nigeria”, she stated.

“In 2010/2011, during my sabbatical leave at NASC, one of my novel research breakthroughs in that year was the development of locally-made germination material from unused newspaper sheets that has water absorbing capacity and a tensile strength of 50% of that of the imported paper towels, which when sterilised and used in sheets of six, instead of the three for the imported ones, produced seed-germination results comparable, if not better, than the imported ones. This was compared with the various substrate materials, using different seeds to test for seed germination. Thus, a sterilised, unused newspaper sheet, which is cheaper, readily and locally-available has replaced imported paper towels, as a substratum for seed germination. I am glad to announce that by this break-through, NASC now uses it all over Nigeria and some West African countries as well as by PBST staff and students”, she added.

Prof. Akintobi, who disclosed that she was the first female lecturer in COLPLANT, lamented the high cost of innovative technological inputs for crop production, which she said were not affordable to most farmers. For seed to be a source of life and prosperity in Nigeria rather than source of pain, her recommendations in this regard include an urgent need to bridge the gap between seed adoption and replacement, to strengthen the seed sector by ensuring the supply of improved seeds ahead of demand in terms of both quality and quantity; the need for research funding, especially seed equipment, which is lacking in all agricultural institutions in Nigeria; and the imperative for leaders in all tiers of government to endeavour to fund agricultural research in collaboration with other stakeholders, among others.

The Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Prof. Felix Salako, who chaired the event, described the Inaugural Lecturer as an outstanding scholar and renowned researcher that is committed to the girl-child development and advocacy for the rights of the Nigerian child. The Vice-Chancellor, who is a Fellow, Soil Science Society of Nigeria (FSSSN), admonished students of the university to be free to discuss their challenges with their lecturers.

Before the inaugural lecture, ASSN had called for speedy commercialisation of Genetically Modified (GM) seeds to increase agricultural productivity and promote sustainable development in the country. The association call was made during its fourth annual conference of ASSN, held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), as members charged the government to make available GM seeds to the Nigerian farmers for improved productivity in farm yields. At the occasion, Prof. Akintobi, who is President of ASSN, stated that seed is the gem of every plant life and a major agricultural requirement that determines productivity. She stressed the need for the use of quality seeds in modern agricultural practices, adding that quality seeds would determine the benchmark or upper limit of the effectiveness of other agricultural inputs.

Prof. Akintobi was the pioneer Coordinator of the Diploma and Certificate Programmes (DICEP), under the former Centre for Human Resources Development (CENHURD) now the Institute for Human Resources Development (INHURD) for about five years. She is the first African woman under the Women Leaders in Agriculture and Environment (AWLAE) programme. In the final analysis, what should be a major take-home from the lecture of the don is the way forward. It is unfortunate the many research findings continue to gather dust on the shelves without making use of them for national development. Our leaders and policy makers should look inward, to make things work for the nation. Let’s begin with seeds.

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