Farmers all over the country have been advised to use Azadirachta Indica (NEEM) leaves and rice chaff to preserve grains and cereals instead of pesticides.
Professor Nasirudeen Suleiman, lecturer with the Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Federal University of Lokoja, gave the recommendation in a paper he presented in his inaugural lecture titled “Pathogenic Fungi and Food Deprivation, The Challenges of Plants Pathologists” held on Wednesday at the Federal University , Auditorium, Adankolo Campus, Lokoja.
Suleiman also solicited funds to equip the university’s lab to commence manufacturing of drugs from the plants, adding that all hands should be on deck to make the university a hub for the manufacturing of herbal drugs.
He decried the effects of chemicals being applied by farmers to checkmate pests, insects and plant diseases, saying farmers have limited resources and lack the technical expertise required to handle imported fungicides and pesticides, which have the disadvantage of being denatured under high tropical temperature.
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He lamented the destructive effect of that on the nation’s crops ranging from yam, potatoes, beans, maize, cocoa, groundnuts among others.
“Historical success recorded in the use of Azadirachtin, Nimbin Nbidol and Secomeliacin, Nicotine from tobacco and Pyrethrin from Chrysanthemum flowers as bio-pesticides and fungicides four years ago in FUL Biological Science Lab; have spurred scientists to alkaloids, flavonoids, terpenoids and other second compounds.
“All these were evolved by the plants over the years to protect themselves against damage by fungi and bacteria. About 400,000 species of tropical flowering plants have medical properties that can be transformed to curb diseases on crops and ultimately prevent food deprivation.
“Secondary metabolites from Vernonia amygdalina cure malaria as antibiotics and increase lactatia in nursing mothers just as essential oil, “citral”, philobotanins from Cymbopogon citratus are anti malaria,” he explained.
He also called for the global intensive study in Mycology (Fungai) in all secondary schools as part of measures to curb global food deprivation.
“Fungi, until recently, are highly under-reported, marginalized and totally ignored in secondary schools to the extent that only plants and animals are being studied, leaving a large number of students ignorant of the whole Fungi kingdom.
“In fungal/pathology science, we see God’s touch, wisdom, wonders and grace, therefore, I am making a case for a global intensive study of mycology in all secondary schools because a secret of our living may be there.
“These natural occurring compounds when used in formulation singly or in combination as fungicides have proved effective, environmentally safe, and easily biodegradable.
“There is no plant that is useless, its usage can be for food, medicine or shelter, just as it is estimated that there are about 500,000 species of plants on earth with about 10 percent being used as food by man and animals.”
He noted that a major factor to food deprivation is disease inflicted on plants and its products by pathogenic fungi in transit and in storage, which could lead to hunger, starvation, nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition with broad impacts on cognitive functioning.
While commending his parents for giving him quality education amidst challenges, said his wife and children have contributed in no small measure in the realisation of his academic achievement.
He equally commended Olayemi Olarotimi Akinwumi, a professor and vice chancellor, FUL, and the management team for the privilege to present the 10th inaugural lecture.