No fewer than 70 Agriculture Extension Officers have been trained on best practice to oil palm nursery management to boost the produce in Delta, says Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr Julius Egbedi.
Egbedi stated this on Wednesday at a day training workshop in Delta Agricultural Development and Rural Authority (DARDA), Ibusa, Oshimili Local Government Area of the state.
He said the training was aimed at building the capacity of Agricultural, Nursery Managers and Extension Officers on best farm management practices in oil palm production.
Egbedi added that the capacity building also involved the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) for pepper filed mapping and documentation.
He explained that for farmers to achieve optimal yield of the palm trees, the practice has to begin with good nursery management.
The commissioner said the state government, in order to achieve its target of improving oil palm production, had increased the number of its nurseries to three; one in each senatorial district.
“It is a fact that best post nursery management practice is pivotal to the establishment of the seedlings and the yield of established palm trees.
“1,930 farmers were assisted with inputs, such as seedlings, steel collars and fertilizers, to plant 4,425 hectares of oil palm between 2016 and 2019.
“The Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm (NIFOR) tenera sprouted nuts from which the seedlings distributed to our farmers have the potential to yield over 30 metric tonnes per hectare.
“However, it is sad to note that, in Delta, yield per hectare of oil palm is far below 10 metric tonnes per hectare.
“Hence, the need for the training to enable our farmers adopt best management practice for their palm plantations to perform optimally,” Egbedi said.
Speaking, Mr Ernest Otunkwo, General Manager, TreeCrops Unit of the ministry, said that the need for training was occasioned by the growing number of small holder farmers from 778 to 1,955 farmers across the state.
“The administration of Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa has invested so much in oil palm development and had grown the 778 small oil palm holder farmers to no fewer than 1,955 farmers through provision of inputs and technical support.
“This informed the need to train agric officers on best management practices for optimum harvest.
“There is also the need for farm enumerations as the extension officers assist the farmers to plant in 2017 with right specifications,” he said.
He tasked the participants to tap into the training and build their capacity for effective technical and extension service delivery.
Speaking similarly, Resource person, Mr Prince Njoku, said the training was to strengthen the capacity of the agric extension workers on best practices in oil palm nursery management.
He said that the challenge has been that the farmers use the old palm seedlings for replanting instead of going through a nursery.
“We are training over 70 agriculture extension officers from the 25 Local Government Areas of the state on best practices, because they will in turn train the small holder farmers which number has grown lager in the state.
“There are lots of challenges when it comes to nursery management of oil palm.
“A lot of farmers resort to existing farm to take seedlings for replanting, instead of going through the rigours of nursery; this is not good, as it would not yield better produce,” he said.
Responding on behalf of the participants, Mr Frank Okolotu, Assistant Chief Agric Officer said the training was a milestone to achieving high yielding oil palm produce in the state.
He thanked the government for the opportunity, adding that they would replicate the training by training the grassroots farmers on best practices.