The National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, in collaboration with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, has substantially contributed to the National Food Security and sufficiency through research and extension activities on root and tuber crops. The following achievements are outstanding:
Nigeria is now ranked first in the world production of cassava, yam and cocoyam with total annual productions of 54, 32 and 4 million metric tonnes, respectively.
Irish potato production in Nigeria has increased from 523,000 metric tonnes in 1975 to over 750,000 metric tonnes in 2006. Production has also expanded from Jos Plateau to Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kano Jigawa, Bauchi, Yobe and Borno States where potato is produced under irrigation during the harmattan months (November to February). Also, the Institute has developed technique for the use of true potato seed (botanical seed) instead of the traditional seed tubers for seed potato production. The technique has the potential to reduce potato production and storage costs by over 35% and double the present seed supply to farmers.
The yam minisett and mini-tuber techniques as well as the minisett dust developed by the Institute for seed yam production also have the potential to end the age long scarcity, and high cost of seed yams. The technologies are presently used in many yam producing areas of Nigeria.
The Institute has developed and released for farmers use 43 improved varieties of cassava. These new varieties contributed greatly to the increased annual production of cassava in Nigeria. The newly improved released varieties yield over 40% more than the local varieties and are resistant to major cassava diseases and pests. These new cassava varieties are known as UMUCASS series and 5 of them are high in pro-vitamin A.
Between 2001 and 2003, NRCRI in collaboration with IITA developed and released seven first ever white yam hybrids. The new hybrids yams which include: TDR 89/02677, TDR 89/02665, TDR 89/02565, TDR 89/02461, TDR 8901438, TDR 89/01213, and TDR 95/01924, yield twice the existing yam landraces and are resistant to major yam diseases and pests.
Between 2008 and 2010, thirteen new hybrid yam varieties were also released giving a total of 20 improved varieties. These are: DRN 200/4/2, TDa 98/01176, TDA 98/01168, TDa 98/01166, TDr 89/02660, TDr 89/02602, TDr 95/10158, TDa 00/000104, TDa 00/00194 and UMUDa-4 (TDa 00/00364), UMUDr – 17 (TDr 95/19177), UMUDr – 18(TDr 95/18949) and UMUDr – 19 (TDr 89/02475).
Research in the Institute is demand and market driven. Hence several value-added products from root and tuber crops have been developed by the Institute for local consumption and export. The products include cassava pellets, flakes for animal feed production, cocoyam chips and soup thickener, ginger wine and powder, sweet potato starch, yam starch and flour. Cakes, bread, biscuits and chin-chin have been successfully produced from the flour. The products are available for commercialization and farmers are already using them. To reduce drudgery in the production and processing of root and tuber crops, yam, potato and cocoyam peelers, ginger splitting machine and dryer, cassava harvester and 4-row chemical spraying equipment among others were developed by the engineering research unit of the Institute.
The achievements of the Institute have been acknowledged at Federal and state levels. In the 1999 and 2001 World Food Day, the Institute came first in the exhibition mounted by 18 research institutes and agricultural organizations at Abuja. Also, in 2002 the institute came second. At State level, the institute came first during the Abia State World Food Day agricultural exhibition in 2003.
Under the Strategic Food Reserve Programme, the Institute contributed over 120 metric tonnes of high quality of garri, part of which was donated to victims Niger Republic by the Federal government.
Between 2003 and 2005, the Institute opened a new station at Maro in Kaduna State for ginger research.
In 2014, a new outstation was opened in Iresi, Osun State.