Sokoto — Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto and the University of Ilorin have developed hybrid sugarcane now being evaluated for high sugar and ethanol content, Dr. Lawali Abubakar of the Department of Crops Science Faculty of Agriculture Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto has said.
He said the project which will cost N27.6 million and is expected to be executed within three years is being funded by the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria, adding, "we are envisaging the future. Once the country begins to produce ethanol, we have ready made materials from sugarcane that can be fully utilized for ethanol production. Brazil has explored sugarcane in ethanol production.
"We wrote a research proposal to the Agriculture Research Council of Nigeria in Abuja and interestingly University of Ilorin also wrote another one on sugarcane, the Agric Research Council now merged the two of us into one," he said.
Dr. Abubakar said as part of the project, they went round the seven northwestern states of the country that include Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina and collected all the local genetic materials and local varieties of sugarcane for proper analysis.
"The sugarcane project has been on for the past two years, however, we do not know whether they will extend the life span of the project in case we are not able to complete it but the hybrids have been developed and they are being evaluated.
"The genotype we developed is actually for commercial production. Most of our farmers here are small scale producers but the federal government is envisaging setting up about three cottage industries in Kebbi State for the processing of sugarcane. With government and private partnership, we can have large scale cultivation," he said.
He said generally improved varieties do well under intensive agriculture and that is why they said it is for commercial production, adding, "you put in more inputs of production, if the management is excellent and it is okay, we expect the turnover to also be great which should be able to offset the high production cost but the major limiting factors with farmers is the cost of initial investment which they don't have.
"That is why we would continue to advice government to ensure they break the vicious cycle of poverty because with little investment there will be less poverty. So government should always make sure funds are available and farmers should be encouraged to ensure they use these funds only for agriculture that they have actually been given the loans for. Once this cycle is broken, with large investment in this sector, then the profit margin is going to be great," he said.