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GAEC needs support for agricultural research
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Business News of Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Source: GNA

GAEC needs support for agricultural research

The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) on Tuesday called for financial support from both public and private institutions to enable it expand its agricultural research activities.

The Commission, which has been working on researches to ensure disease resistant, pest-free and high yield crops, appealed for more private sector investment to ensure food security in Ghana.

Dr Kenneth Danso, Director, Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) of GAEC, made the call during a lecture on the topic: “GAEC’s Contribution to Sustainable Agricultural Development and Food Security in Ghana.”

The lecture, which was the second in the series to mark the Commission’s 50th anniversary, was aimed at showcasing the capabilities, achievements and challenges of GAEC over the years.

Dr Danso said in spite of the huge role of agriculture in Ghana’s economy, the sector was plagued with problems as the sector continues to rely on rainfall and subsistence farming systems.

He said challenges such as low level mechanisation, poor credit facilities to subsistence farmers as well as climate change issues continue to weigh down efforts to enhance agriculture development.

He also identified very low usage of fertilizers due to its high prices, and high post-harvest losses due to poor post-harvest management as other challenges facing the agricultural sector.

Besides, the incidence of pests and diseases have often resulted in low crop productivity especially in the major food security crops such as cassava, yam, cocoyam and plantain, he said.

Dr Danso said the Commission had over the years used nuclear and related biotechnological techniques to support agriculture and food security by developing disease resistant, pest-free and high yield crops for sustainable agriculture.

According to him, two major Institutions, the BNARI and the National Nuclear Research Institute (NNRI) are involved in agriculture research at the Commission.

Dr Danso said these institutions have centres, laboratories and units with appropriate scientific techniques including nuclear and biotechnologies to solve agricultural challenges.

These centres, the Nuclear Agriculture Research Centre, Biotechnology centre, Radiation Entomology and Pest Management centre, the Radiation Technology Centre and the Compost Unit, deal with programmes for agricultural development, he said.

Through these centres, breakthroughs such as the development of new mutant crop varieties to enhance crop yield and the introduction and dissemination of MD2 pineapple, using the tissue culture technique have been achieved.

Additionally, the tissue culture technique is being used to supply clean planting materials of sweet potato, plantain and bananas to farmers on a yearly basis.

Dr Danso said post-harvest losses have been managed through its Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF) where food crops such as grains, pulses, spices, herbs, meat and animal feed are disinfected and decontaminated to improve quality and promote long-term storage.

He explained that through this technology, GAEC proved to the international community that nuclear energy could be used for shelf life extension of tuber crops particularly yam.

Dr Danso said the export of irradiated yam to the international market brought huge economic returns to individual farmers some of whom won the best yam export award.

He said the GIF had played a significant role in decontamination of stored food products such as grains, cereals, spices and herbs from insect pests, and developed mechanisms to control fruit flies, which has been a menace to mango, citrus and vegetable growers in the country.

He said its compost unit has been working towards the commercial production of organic manure and compost to farmers to ensure safe and reliable natural fertilizers for farmers.

Dr Danso said the Commission has also achieved major breakthroughs including the reduction of the duration of germination in shea tree through in vivo and in vitro techniques to enhance the domestication of this economically important tree crop in the northern part of the country.

Dr Danso appealed to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority to take advantage of this breakthrough and invest in further research to reduce the long tap root of the plant to make transplanting easy and successful.

He stressed that in spite of all the achievements the Commission was financially handicapped in expanding its research and human resource capacity and needed the patronage and support of the private sector to achieve greater successes to ensure agricultural development and food security in the country.

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