Gbadebo Olaoye: Importance of plant breeding in food production

Gbadebo Olaoye: Importance of plant breeding in food production

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 1:21 pm

Prof.Gbadebo Olaoye, Inaugural lecturer

Prof.Gbadebo Olaoye, Inaugural lecturer

A Professor of Agriculture at the University of Ilorin, Gbadebo Olaoye, stresses the importance of plant breeding in achieving sufficient food production

By Stephen Olufemi Oni/Ilorin.

A Professor of Agriculture at the University of Ilorin, Gbadebo Olaoye, has stressed the importance of plant breeding in achieving sufficiency in food production.

Delivering the 160th inaugural lecture of the University, entitled “Plant Breeding for Survival of Mankind”, Prof. Olaoye said the principal aim of plant breeding is to produce crops that are high yielding, with good quality products, especially as the world population keeps increasing.

He said: “Plant breeding, which strives to improve plants for the benefit of the society and humanity, is to ensure that these crops survive and are able to produce well in any environment in order to make adequate food available for the survival of man. The wish of every plant breeder is to carry out crop improvement activities under favourable environment conditions but empirical evidence has shown that no single environment possesses all the attributes necessary for the survival of crop species.”

Yam farming, for example, can be improved with good  crop bteeding

Yam farming, for example, can be improved with good crop bteeding

Lamenting that changes in the factors of environment have continued to impact negatively on crop growth, survival and productivity, the inaugural lecturer maintained that, to ensure survival of mankind worldwide and for plant breeders to remain relevant in any agrarian society, newer and more productive varieties have to be made available for cultivation in relevant target ecologies, adding that achieving this objective requires commitments from government and the private sector in funding plant breeding activities, which include qualitative training programmes especially for emerging plant breeders and geneticists.

As a way forward, Prof. Olaoye stressed the need for improved funding of basic research into high yielding and adaptable crops, maintaining that breakthroughs in research can only be achieved through adequate funding of basic research.

Giving kudos to governments in developed countries for their continued funding of research in areas that pose challenges to their developmental capacities while also breaking new grounds, Prof. Olaoye decried the situation in Nigeria where Universities and Research Institutes are grossly underfunded and could therefore not carry out any meaningful research. To arrest the situation, he admonished the three tiers of government in Nigeria to do more in funding basic research in their respective institutions in order to enhance the capacity of new graduates to effectively compete with their colleagues both nationally and internationally.

Besides, he said multidisciplinary approach to conducting research which has been credited with success stories, especially when it involves collaboration among researchers across institutions, should be encouraged and strengthened, urging governments at both the federal and state levels to adopt measures that would integrate research centres with relevant Faculties in the Universities such that resources of the institutions could be pooled together for greater success in teaching and solving common research problems.

Aside calling for urgent restructuring of the University of Ilorin Sugar Research Institute in order to achieve its objectives, Prof. Olaoye stressed the need to upgrade existing facilities in Nigerian Universities for proper and adequate research in plant genetics and breeding. Furthermore, he called on the various Universities in the country to create an enabling environment for practitioners in plant breeding discipline to enable them function more effectively upon completion of their programmes. Achieving this, he posited, requires conscious efforts in acquisition of the state of the art equipment in the institutions’ laboratories to carry out research especially in areas of plant breeding and genetics.

While urging the students in the Faculty of Agriculture to keep the banner of agriculture flying, especially now that the crude oil, which Nigerian leaders have always depended upon to the detriment of agriculture, is no longer bringing the much expected returns, the University don boldly told them that “this is your day and with you and us, Nigeria will become self-sufficient in feeding the teeming millions of her citizenry.”

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