Microbiomes Are Boosting Nigerian Agriculture

As our understanding of microbiome science has deepened, and new avenues in health and medicine have stemmed from the human microbiome, agricultural research has our believe that the plant microbiome could in fact be the key to growing better crops. In the practice of intelligent use and introduction of microbiomes into a soil environment to support the growth of certain crops, we’re seeing a real alternative to the rampant and widespread use of chemical fertilizers that focus on eliminating the bad stuff.

The fundamental idea is to harness the natural influence of plant microbiome – bacteria present in soil environment, roots and leaves – to foster a cleaner, healthier, nourishing agricultural practice that has low dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These bacteria aid the absorption of minerals and nutrients, increase immunity and help plants brave adversities like drought and excessive heat. Plant microbiomes therefore hold the promise of greater resistance to adverse conditions, thereby ensure higher produce minus the typical side effects of conventional agriculture, like environmental degradation and chemical residue from chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

In countries like Nigeria, where agricultural practices are riddled with a host of challenges, there has been a growing need to look at alternative ways to fuel this economy and introduce safer and more sustainable means. According to this article in The Conversation low agricultural productivity and simultaneous soil degradation is a leading cause for persistent hunger issues. There is a pressing need to look at sustainable solutions that helps improve soil health, crop productivity and boost the economy too. This West African country is one of the world’s largest producers of cassava, with the states of Imo, Anambra, Kogi, Cross River, Enugu, Ogun, Ondo, Taraba, Benue, Delta, and Edo taking the lead in terms of production.

As one of the countries’ predominant cash-crops, safeguarding it from potential pests and disease attacks is crucial in order to avoid heavy losses. The problem with chemical insecticide, fungicide and herbicide is that it introduces chemical leeching into the soil system, causing an imbalance in the ecosystem, which is counter-productive as it strips the soil off its natural immunity. In the long run, this means the crop becomes more vulnerable over time. Here are some of the common issues that plague the cassava crop in Nigeria:

  1. Bacterial blight is transmitted when infected tools and material are used on the farmland.
  2. Viral diseases such as Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) are highly feared diseases as they cause complete crop failure.
  3. Root rot occurs due to planting cassava, essentially a tuber growing underground, in soil that doesn’t drain fully, causing a moist/damp soil atmosphere ripe for the build-up of bacteria and fungi.
  4. Whiteflies are considered amongst the most damaging pests to attack cassava. Spraying insecticide is not always ineffective.
  5. Mealybugs feed off the cassava and simultaneously leave behind a toxin within the plant that causes leaf withering.
  6. Cassava mites are the most common amongst pests to attack cassava.

Several African countries like Nigeria are only beginning to benefit from the exciting possibilities that microbial products present. These products are derived from, and cash in on, naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, which have the capacity to establish symbiotic exchanges within the plant system. Most commonly they are sought after for their capacity to help improve soil fertility, to strengthen immunity and defend plants from pests and diseases, as well as withstand the extreme temperature fluctuations and disparate climate changes in an unpredictable landscape.

Consider Organica Biotech’s MagicGro Plus – a growth regulating product that utilises microbiome technology developed to address issues exactly like those faced in Nigeria’s cassava growing regions. The product is enriched by with essential bacterial strains that integrate with the entire microbial community within the plant system. It is a product of advanced biotechnology that builds on biosensors and bioactivators – ie: the inherent ability of these bacterial strains to sense a specific need – micronutrient deficiency, pest infestation, climatic changes – and enhance the transportation of micronutrients to the required areas to withstand those conditions. It also helps improve nutrient and water uptake, especially in hot conditions where nitrogen fixing is hampered, thereby addressing issues of mineral deficiency too. All in all, MagicGro Plus is a product that will ensure the crop has a robust plant defence system against climatic stress and pest infestation.

By cashing in on naturally occurring microbes present in soil systems, MagicGro Plus works like a plant growth promoting hormone by aiding growth despite severe conditions faced in Africa. The microbial goodness of this product is capable of countering dry arid climatic conditions, and works even in conditions lacking water. It works to strengthen soil by improving its capacity to retain water. This conditions soil, decreases soil erosion and also aids germination by softening the seeds by providing a consistently moist environment in which to germinate. That apart it also plays a role in breaking down pesticide residue. Because MagicGro Plus gives crops the capacity to withstand a wide range of geo-climatic conditions, it can also be equally effective on other cash-crops in Africa such as cocoa, groundnut, yam and palm oil plantations. With the promise of greater yield across all these cash-crops, what this ensures in the long run, is healthier crops, even in the face of adversities.

Additionally, because these microbial solutions are far less toxic and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers greatly, they’re also very efficient for the crop because they reduce the waiting period for chemicals to wash away and dissipate, before farmers can plant the next batch of a certain crop. Where usually when using pesticides farmers would have to wait for hours, sometimes days and weeks, before re-entering their field for picking or planting, the use of safer products like MagicGro Plus gives growers the chance to enter sooner, thereby aiding faster yield too.

According to some estimates, unhealthy soils and inadequate soil systems seriously affect food production an yield, thereby impacting the food security. This costs African farmers approximately $68 billion a year. With the help of microbiome technology employed in growth regulating and soil enhancing products like Magic Grow Plus, farmers can combat may of their worst challenges and ensure higher gains through the year.

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