Wednesday, 7th June 2023

How NIHORT blazes the trail in horticultural solutions

The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, has blazed the trails in horticultural research, technological development, extension services and product development.

Dr. Olaniyan Abayomi

The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, has blazed the trails in horticultural research, technological development, extension services and product development.

The institute’s mandate is to conduct research into the genetic improvement, production, processing, storage, utilisation and marketing of tropical fruits, vegetables, spices and ornamental plants. The institute has a wide array of horticultural crops currently researched upon, from which a myriad of technologies has been generated.

These include citrus: sweet orange, lemon, lime, tangelo, grapefruit, shaddock, tangerine; fruits: mango, plantain/banana, pawpaw, pineapple, guava, avocado pear and passion fruit; indigenous fruits: Irvingia (Ogbono), walnut, Chrysophyllum albidum (Agbalumo – Yoruba), African breadfruit, native pear (Ube); fruit vegetables: tomato, pepper, okra, cucumber, garden egg, watermelon; leafy vegetables: Amaranthus, Telfairia (Ugwu), Corchorus (Ewedu), Celosia (Soko), Solanum macrocarpon (Igbagba –Yoruba)

Others are indigenous vegetables: Basella alba (amunututu – Yoruba), Crassocephalum rubens (ebolo- Yoruba), Launae teraxacifolia (yanrin -Yoruba); spices: Ocimum spp. (Basil), tumeric, Gnetum africanum (Okazi), Aframomum spp. (Atare) and ornamentals: rose, pitanga, frangipani and marigold.

The Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) is the supervisory council while the Institute’s Governing Board is headed by Major General Garba Mohammed (Rtd). The current Executive Director is Dr Abayomi Akeem Olaniyan, who, in collaboration with the Internal Management Committee members, direct the affairs of the institute.

As the only horticultural research institute with a national mandate, it is positioned towards helping to achieve the Green Alternative policy of the Federal Government which is a roadmap towards diversifying the Nigeria economy. Hence, horticulture constitutes a major key player to fine-tune domestic production of horticultural crops and also reduce importation of concentrates utilised by fruit juice industries, contrary to raw products. Role of horticulture in national economy includes employment generation, wealth creation, provision of raw materials for industries, foreign exchange earnings, etc.

Horticulture is generally described as the science or art of cultivating fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, aromatic and medicinal crops, herbs and spices. Horticultural crops especially fruits and vegetables are characterized with cheap sources of vitamins and micronutrients rich in phytochemicals which are capable of fighting disease causing organisms and free radicals in the human bodies.

The current global challenges of micronutrient deficiency (hidden hunger), obesity and undernourishment can be remedied through horticulture. Also, horticulture is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of ending hunger and poverty, achieving food security and nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

In ensuring healthy lives and promotion of wellbeing for all ages, horticultural crops that are associated with high medicinal values like ginger, turmeric, banana, plantain, sour sop, avocado pear are available to fight or prevent non-communicable diseases. Horticulture is an area where women are much involved along the value chain and more women can take up entrepreneurship in the field of horticulture. The different areas of horticultural value chain are gender-friendly and women can actually key in to adequately contribute to sustainable development.

The latest of the institute is the design of the NIHORT-Tuta Trap Tray developed to curtail Tuta absoluta (tomato ebola) that ravaged many tomato farms in the country in 2015. The device captures the adult leaf miners, nocturnal insects responsible for the spread of the disease. Production of biological pesticides (NIHORT-Lyptol and NIHORT-Raktin) is an added intervention strategy in reducing usage of synthetic chemicalsl for the control of Tuta absoluta.

Other technologies developed in the institute include rapid multiplication techniques in plantain/banana and pineapple, biotechnology protocols for rapid propagation of seedlings and budded citrus technique. Natural soap made from plantain/banana waste and production of domesticated mushroom from some agricultural waste are another ground breaking research outputs.

This contributes to environmental sustainability through waste management. Value addition is a major segment of the horticultural value chain skewed at reducing post- harvest losses of most horticultural crops which are highly perishable. Technologies of value-addition from our mandate crops include: bottled fruit juices from pineapple, orange and mango. Others are dehydrated vegetables, tomato powder, jams/marmalade from local fruits, fruit leathers, ginger and turmeric powder. Intercropping models for sustainable fruit orchards have been developed. Similarly, biological control of mango mealybug through an exotic parasitoid Gyranusoidae tebygi which has been released nationwide forms part of the output. Current research efforts include: mitigation against Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) disease, innovative product development using underutilized species to address food and nutrition security, development of tomato varieties tolerant to leaf miner, and fruit fly control nationwide.

As part of its outreach activities, stakeholders in selected states of Northwest, Northcentral, Southwest, Southeast and Southsouth involved in tomato, onion, Irvingia, pineapple and citrus value chains were interacted with to determine challenges and proffer appropriate intervention programmes along the value chains. The Institute is also involved in empowerment and capacity building programmes nationwide as well as collaboration with both local and international organisations for exchange and cross fertilisation of ideas and knowledge.

NIHORT started as the National Fruit and Vegetable Research and Demonstration Centre with the assistance of the UNDP/FAO Project NIR/72/007, but with the Federal Government Agriculture Research Institutes Establishment Decree Order No 35 of 1973, it became a full-fledged research institute and had the acronym NIHORT in June 1976. It has its headquarters at Ibadan, Oyo state, substations at Bagauda (Kano state), Mbato, Okigwe (Imo State), Dadinkowa (Gombe State) and a new substation was inaugurated on 18th January, 2019 in Otukpa, Benue State. The spread across different locations is to cater for the varied diversities of horticultural crops in the agro-ecologies.