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  • Background Information of the Study

Cassava, (Manihot esculentum crantz), belongs to the family of euphorbiaceae. It is believed that the crop originated from Brazil and was introduced to West Africa by the Portuguese traders. It exists in many cultivars which can be distinguished by size, colour, shape of the leaf, branching habit, plant height, colour of the stem, root shape, size and colour, maturity time of the root and level of hydrocyanic content (Anyanwu, 2006). Cassava is Africa’s food insurance crop with stable yield, even with low rainfall, low fertility and low inputs (FAO, 2008). Cassava is becoming an important industrial raw material and a foreign exchange earner. Cassava’s role as food security crop as well as a cash crop is receiving high attention for poverty alleviation by the developing world and partners (FAO, 2008).

Cassava is ranked the 6th most important crop in the world in terms of area planted and production (FAO, 1986). Africa is the highest cassava producer in the world, and more than 100 million people in tropical Africa depend on it as their dietary staple (FAO, 2008). Globally, among the world’s producing regions, West Africa is known to have the greatest share of the world’s production of cassava (FAO, 2008). Interestingly, Nigeria is the largest world producer of cassava with yearly production of fresh tubers estimated at 10-13 million tons on a land area of 1.2-1.4 million hectares (NAQAS, 2002). Nigeria’s lead on cassava production in the world has been achieved through expansion of land areas devoted to cassava cultivation (Ano, 2003). Of Africa’s 72.7 million tons of cassava output in 1990, 26 million tons were produced in Nigeria (Ezedinma, 2003). Cassava is widely grown in Nigeria. For decades, cassava has been cultivated as a subsistence crop in Nigeria. Currently, cassava cultivation has become an income generating activity. This “enhanced” status is as a result of increased demand for cassava and cassava products outside the rural communities (Ikpi etal 1986), as well as the realization of the potentials it has for contributing to the attainment of self-sufficiency in food production (Kwatia, 1980).

Cassava plays a major role in Nigeria’s food security and 80% of the inhabitants in the rural areas eat cassava meal at least once a day (Ezedinma, 2003). The crop is also a good source of raw materials involved in the production of confectioneries, animal feed, alcohol, adhesives, flour starch, etc. The growth of cassava as a major economic and food security crop over the last two decades has generated significant research interest at both the National and International levels. For instance, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and the National Root Crops Research Institute, (NRCRI), Umudike have developed the Tropical Manihot Selection (TMS) 30555, 30572, 30211, 50395, 60506 and Umudike (U) 41044 varieties in the early 1970’s and 1980’s. Most recently, new varieties of cassava were developed and they include, TMS 90257, 84537M, 82/00661, 30001, 81/00110, 91934, 4(2)1425, nr 41044, nr 8212, 8082, 8083, 8208, nr 83107, TMS 419, TMS 98/0581 and TMS 98/0510 (Ezulike et-al,2006). These varieties are not only high yielding, but also are resistant to pests and diseases such as Cassava Mosaic Disease, Cassava Bacteria Blight, Cassava Mealy Bug and Cassava Green Spider Mite (Ezedinma, 2003).

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