This is a newly created centre to research into soil improvement. The centre houses the Compost and the Black soldier fly units which are involved in producing nutrient rich compost for organic crop production. Compost research from the Centre has led to the establishment of Compost manufacturing plants at Ashiaman by Safisana and Nungua by IWMI. The Centre’s current research activities includes:
- organic amendments on soil organic matter quality, content and nitrogen use efficiency under different moisture regimes
- compost development and use
- biological nitrogen fixation studies
Climate Smart Agriculture
Climate change is a reality and its effect may be detrimental to agricultural development in Ghana. Currently, the effect of climate change is localised and mostly lie within the range of natural climate change. However, in the longer-term climate change is likely to have a bigger effect on food supply than any other factor affecting agricultural productivity. Climate change is associated with drought and emerging new pests and diseases which poses a greater more complicated challenge to food production. To mitigate against changing climate, BNARI is conducting series of research to develop crops which are resilient. Principally, BNARI aims at developing drought tolerant plant species, use small scale drip irrigation and hydroponics for vegetable production as a climate change mitigation, drought and water use efficiency studies in crops. The institute is also using neutron probe to study water use efficiency and soil-nutrient-water management for crop production.
TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER UNIT (TTU)
The TTU evolved from the Socio-economic Centre of BNARI. The unit liaises with Managers and heads of Centres and units to
- transfer technologies or research products of BNARI to end users
- educate the public on the application of biotechnology and nuclear techniques in agriculture
- conduct socioeconomic research on food crops production
- provide technical support, consultancy and advisory services
- identify research needs of farmers and farmer based organizations
- Commercialize BNARI’s research findings and farm produce
Current Research at BNARI of great interest to investors
Development of New Crop Varieties
Mutation induction and biotechnology are tools of significant importance to crop improvement. They are used to complement conventional breeding techniques to develop new crop varieties. The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) under the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission is using mutation induction to develop new varieties of yam, cassava and cherry tomatoes.
Mutation Induction in yam (Dioscorea esculenta)
Dioscorea esculenta (also known as Chinese yam) is underutilized species threatened by genetic extinction due to replacement of farmer’s landraces by high yielding species, anthropogenic destruction of its natural ecosystems, human socio-economic changes as well as changes in agricultural practices. With high number of tubers (25-50) produced per vine, Dioscorea esculenta provides an excellent source of carbohydrate thereby making it a good food security crop. The soft textured light skin tubers have very good palatability with slightly sweet taste and also free from toxins. Genetic improvement of the crop is, however, constrained by long propagation cycle, spiny vines, short tuber dormancy and sterile flowers with very limited genetic variation. Thus, BNARI is using mutation induction as a feasible option to improve the tuber size and other nutritional attributes. The project is also focusing on domestic utilization of the crop, protect it from extinction and promote it for export in non-traditional export sector.
Cherry Tomato (New Tomato Variety)
Currently, Ghana is importing large metric tonnes of tomatoes from neighbouring countries using scarce foreign exchange. To overcome this challenge, the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) under the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission has used mutation induction to develop four cherry tomato mutant varieties which are undergoing on station trials prior to their release. The mutant varieties are resistant to most tomato virus diseases, high yielding compared to their parental lines and has high lycopene content.
Newly developed mutants of cherry tomatoes
Increased carotene levels in yellow flesh cassava
Mutation induction is also being used to develop nutrient rich yellow flesh cassava with high carotene to provide nutritive carbohydrate source for the rural population. Four mutant lines are currently undergoing evaluation in different agroecological zones prior to their release.
Radiation Processing Technology for Post Harvest Management of Agricultural Produce and Medical Sterilisation
Undoubtedly, Ghana losses as high as 30-50% of its agricultural produce after harvesting. There is also high rate of rejection of exported agricultural products on the international markets due to post harvest destruction by storage pests. Additionally, there are serious challenges in sterilization of medical and pharmaceutical products due to over reliance on autoclave which depends on vapour often resulting in contamination and consequent cross-contaminations. These challenges limit national development and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Research and development in radiation processing in BNARI over the years led to the installation of a semi-commercial irradiator (Gamma Irradiation Facility, GIF) to address these challenges in the country. Currently the GIF is being used to extent the shelf life of food crops (yam, onions, sweetpotato), disinfestation of horticultural crops (mango) for export and herbal products and sterilization of single use medical items.
Cultures of Plantain growing in the growth room
The fruit fly menace has been a bane to horticultural farmers in the country. Thus, for the past decade BNARI has focused its research activities on the development of an integrated pest management system for fruit flies control using the bait technology, biopesticides and the sterile insect technique. Through these research programmes, BNARI has established a thriving Bactrocera dorsalis colony, successfully developed and tested protein food baits for fruit fly control. Additionally, the institute has demonstrated the efficacy and mode of application of a commercial formulation of an entomopathogenic fungus, Beauveria bassiana against fruit flies. Successful development of the protein bait has led to the establishment of a factory to scale up the production of the bait locally to save the use of scarce foreign exchange for its import. It will also enhance the export of wholesome fruits and vegetable to the international market, thus preventing their rejection. Current research activities are focusing on irradiation studies and standardization of mass rearing systems and the development of a “Trap-Irradiate-Release SIT strategy for fruit fly control.
Compost development for soil and waste management
Healthy plant growth and development depends on good soil. The continuous use of inorganic fertilizers is gradually making soils saline to the detriment of plant growth. BNARI has develop nutrient rich compost for growing of vegetable crops especially by organic farmers since the microbial levels has been reduced to acceptable limits. Compost research in BNARI has led to the establishment of compost manufacturing plant at Nungua by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Ashaiman by Safisana. Additionally, BNARI has produced over 50 metric tonnes of compost for sale to private farmers and farmer based groups.
Compost development also has an additional role of addressing waste management challenges in developing cities, town or village.