BY BENSON IDAHOSA UNIVERSITY
May 25th, 2016
GRASS IMPORTATION: A PARADOX OF WANTS IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY IN
Benson Idahosa University says ‘NO’ Grass importation, for many informed reasons, some of which are briefly stated as follows:
Nigeria can be self-sufficient in forage crops production. The Country is blessed with abundant land resources. Both the soil and climatic conditions are highly suitable for the production of forage crops (grasses and herbaceous and tree legumes).
Nigeria has several indigenous forage/grass crops which are highly nutritious to feed our livestock. Example of such forage include, Andropogon Spp (Gamba grass), Pennisatum Purpureum, Panicum Maximum, Centrosema pubescens, Cajanus Cajan, Gliricidia sepium. In particular, Nigeria grass (Pennisatum Perdiselatum Trin.) is used as fodder. It provides high yields of green herbage ranging from 30 to 109 tons per hectare. The Grass can be cut four (4) months after sowing, and it provides huge quantity of good quality, highly nutritious green forage and can stand several cuts per year. It does well in all of the Savanna agro-ecological zone of Nigeria. The grass can be cultivated all year round. Therefore enough of this grass can be produced to feed our livestock.
BIU is leveraging on the latest technology of forage production, the HYDROPONICS TECHNOLOGY, which is being predicted as the future of fodder production in Nigeria.
This technology enables farmers to grow fodder all year around and it is promising to reduce cost of animal farming. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water without soil.
The impact of importation of exotic species of forage crops can have detrimental effects on our indigenous species and also constitute a threat to the integrity of our environment. Imported grasses could introduce noxious weeds capable of invading our indigenous (local) foods crops, thereby posing a veritable threat to the food basket of the Nation. We emphasize that imported forage/grass may come with microbes/pathogens that may cause unknown diseases that could lead to high mortality amongst indigenous livestock. Exotic forage grasses do not have any comparative advantage over our indigenous ones.
Importation of forage (grasses and legumes) could constitute an avoidable drain of lean foreign exchange reserve. We have commenced plans for mass production of grass to meet our forage needs locally. We could even have surplus for export to earn foreign exchange for the Country and create job opportunities in the agro-allied industries.
Professor Ernest Izevbigie, FNAI