In recognition of his longstanding support and partnership, the Nigerian Society of Nematology (NISON) bestowed an award of appreciation on the director-general of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha.
The award was presented at the 6th biannual hybrid conference of NISON. The conference, themed ‘The Science of Nematology: A Tool for Ameliorating the Impact of Climate Change and Hunger in Developing Economies,’ took place in Abuja.
Addressing the conference attendees, Mustapha discussed the significance of deploying biotechnology to combat the adverse effects of nematode disease on plants. He emphasized NABDA’s commitment to conducting research and fostering innovation to provide sustainable solutions for mitigating nematode attacks on farms.
“NABDA’s participation in the sixth Biannual conference of the Nigerian Society of Nematology is a testament to our dedication to advancing the field of nematology through cutting-edge biotechnology,” Professor Mustapha stated. He recognised the profound impact of nematodes on agriculture and the environment and underlined NABDA’s belief in the pivotal role biotechnology can play in addressing nematode-related challenges.
Represented by his technical assistant, Dr. Patrick Aderinola, Mustapha went on to explain the history of biotechnology and its transformative impact on our ability to modify living organisms. Modern biotechnology has led to the development of genetically modified (GM) food crops and animals. However, this innovation has largely targeted a limited number of crops suited to developed agricultural models and markets, rather than focusing on developing crops suitable for the agricultural practices of developing countries.
“The most economically and environmentally sustainable solution is the use of JO-resistant plants,” Mustapha revealed. He discussed how natural resistances have been introduced into cultivars through breeding and highlighted the need for additional research to improve resistance and resilience to nematodes.
In a press interview during the conference, the president of NISON, Prof. Aminanyanaba Asimiea appealed to the Nigerian government to invest in research aimed at finding solutions to the devastating effects of nematodes. He stressed that nematodes, parasitic worms that damage crops and cause plant diseases, pose a significant threat to the country’s food security, particularly in the face of climate change.
According to Asimiea, nematodes become even more destructive in conditions of water stress caused by factors like drought or flooding. As climate change exacerbates these stressors, the resilience of crops to nematode attacks decreases. Changes in nematode disease profiles further complicate the situation, underscoring the need for extensive research.
Nematology, however, remains one of the least understood sciences in Nigeria. While most countries around the world pay substantial attention to nematology research, the discipline remains relatively underexplored in Nigeria.
During the conference, Asimiea and other experts emphasized the importance of conducting thorough research in nematology to develop crop varieties that can resist nematode attacks. They highlighted the need for resilience to extreme weather conditions, particularly when nematodes are involved.
This conference aimed to raise awareness within the government and the scientific community about the necessity of enhancing nematology research in Nigeria to increase food production, combat climate change, and develop crops that can withstand nematode attacks and extreme weather conditions.