Importance of Research in Agriculture

Importance of Research in Agriculture


Research has played tremendous role in the development of agriculture in Nigeria. Traditionally, research in agriculture in Nigeria has concentrated on cash crops which are of value to industrialized economics.

Lately, the scope of research has been expanded with the principal objective of developing improved systems which will maintain soil fertility and consistent high yields. 

Also, the system is expected to be economically viable, socially and culturally acceptable, as well, it has to be within the abilities of the small farmer and can adapt to different ecological conditions.

 

Definition of Research in Agriculture

Research is an advanced stage of study undertaken to discover or establish facts or principles.

In agriculture, it involves finding solutions to farmers’ problems through systematic experimental procedures.

There are two types of research, namely:

1. Basic Research

2. Applied Research

 

1. Basic Research: This is carried out by the intellectuals in universities, and at times, in research institutes for the sake of acquiring knowledge and not for solving immediate problems of farmers. The findings are however, sometimes utilized later in applied research.

2 Applied Research: This is often carried out by the intellectuals, mainly in the research institutes, and at times, in the universities purposely for solving immediate problems in the country.

The methods and the techniques employed in this type of research are often drawn from the fundamentals of the basic research carried out some years back. Problems of the farmers are taken to the research workers by the extension officers for analysis and solution.

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Research Institutes

As of today, Nigeria has over 35 Research Institutes which are established purposely to carry out research work in various fields, especially on agricultural activities. Such institutes include:

1. The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN): This is located at Onigambari, near Ibadan. It engages in research activities which are related to specific problems of tree crops like cocoa, coffee, kola nut, cashew and tea. It has experimental stations in different parts of the country where the crops thrive.

2. Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR): This institute conducts research on soil analysis and production of palm produce. It also deals with specific problems of oil palm farmers in the country. The headquarters is in Benin-City, Edo State.

3. Livestock Research Institute, Vom (Jos): This institute is saddled with research activities on livestock. The headquarters is at Vom, near Jos, in Plateau State.

4. National Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER): This deals with research into various economic and social problems in the country. It carries out feasibility studies on various socio-economic and agricultural problems. It organizes seminars, conferences and workshops related to any of these problems.

5. National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike (NRCRI): This is a body charged with the responsibility for research into root and tuber crops such as yam, cocoyam, cassava, potatoes.

6. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA): This is a non-profit international agricultural research center with its headquarters at Moniya in Ibadan; it has experimental farms in Abuja and some selected states in the country. 

The goal of this institute is to increase the productivity of major food crops and to develop sustainable agricultural systems capable of replacing fallow or slash and burn cultivation in the humid and sub-humid tropics through research.

The institute's crops improvement programmes focus on cassava, maize, plantain, cowpeas, soya beans and yam.

The research findings are shared through international cooperation programmes, which include training, information and exchange activities.

The findings of these various research institutes are usually passed to farmers through extension officers. Varieties of crops which are resistant to various disease infesting local crops are produced and sent to the farmers along with improved package of farming methods and techniques.

Similarly, the government is often advised on a number of socio economic factors affecting the production process so that policies which may encourage farmers are formulated.

Also from the research activities of these institutes over the years, new and improved varieties of a number of crops such as maize, rice, cocoa, rubber, grasses legumes have been developed.

Better and more economic ways of cultivation have been introduced and better yields and qualities of animals have evolved by selection and cross breeding.

For research to be meaningful, it must be relevant to the need of farmers. Thus, farmers should participate fully in the identification of their problems/needs- from the planning stage of the research. This is attained through close interaction between the farmers and research team.

This is referred to as "Up Stream" research. All the findings of the research are transmitted to the farmers through extension officers.

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Applied Research

These are research efforts that should be disseminated to farmers, purposely to assist in their agricultural practice. This may be regarded as new ideas, methods, practices or techniques, which give the means of achieving, sustained increase in farm productivity and income. The innovations can be grouped into technical and social innovations.

 

Innovations

In view of the importance of science and technologies to the development of the agricultural sector, there is need to ensure that innovations are effectively transmitted to farmers.

Farmers need to be encouraged and sensitized on innovations; some of the strategies for this include the following:

1. Adequate financial assistance should be provided to farmers for easy adoption of innovation. This can be in the form of subsidy which accompanies the introduction of a particular innovation or provision of credit at fair interest.

2. Continuous education and training of farmers- cooperatives are institutionalized organizations with continuous education of members as part of their principles. They can be cheaply and conveniently used by extension officers to educate members about innovations.

3. The use of contact farmers in reaching other farmers in the community is relevant. Contact farmers are those with relatively high educational background, good past farming performance and are able to command the respect of their contemporaries.

Contact farmers efforts tend to supplement the efforts of extension officers.

4. Demonstration farms should be used liberally by extension officers while introducing new techniques. This reveals results of innovations and enhances farmers’ understanding of the techniques.

5. All inputs or facilities required for optimum benefits of the innovations should be provided when due, to sustain farmer's confidence in extension officers and the innovations.

6. There is need for formulation and implementation of consistent policies. However, where there is the likelihood of negative impact of a policy on farmers, government should provide a safe measure to absorb or reduce the impact.

7. Agricultural extension officer should be provided with adequate resources (finance, mobility etc.) to enhance their performance.

Besides, government should address the problem of acute shortage of extension officers.

 

Quarantine Services

Government provides quarantine services purposely to aid agricultural development. Plant quarantine regulations are meant to prevent the introduction and distribution of foreign plant diseases and pests into a country.

The primary objective is to protect the crops which are produced in the country.

Quarantine measure can also be applied to eradicate and prevent the spread of plant diseases and pests within the country. These measures require strict supervision of the importation of plant materials like seeds or nursery stock.

During the quarantine period, the imported materials are kept under strict observation in sealed compartments for a period which is long enough for any disease symptoms to appear. If the disease symptoms appear, the infected materials are destroyed or they may be re-exported at the expense of the person or organization that imported the plant.

 

Research Contributions

The contributions of science and technology in the areas of agricultural development are as follows:

1. Improvement of crops and animals through genetic manipulations (breeding).

2. Control of diseases and pests.

3. Improvement and better management of the soil and its resources.

4. Better and precise methods of studying climate which is one of the environmental factors affecting agricultural productivity.

5. Mechanization of farm operations purposely to maximize yield by more efficient operations.

6. Construction of good roads for easy evacuation of farm produce.

7. Increase in productivity of crops and animals through better techniques.

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Conclusion on Importance of Research in Agriculture

Both basic and applied research should be well funded so as to get more facts in improving agricultural activities with the ultimate aim of fostering rapid development of agriculture and providing food for all. Research as contributed, in no small way, to the rapid development of agriculture. 

Farmers should also be encouraged to adopt innovation through adequate financial assistance, continuous education and training bearing in mind the major contributions of science and technology to agricultural development.


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