The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative, ACAI, conducted a training workshop on Laboratory and Equipment Use in Soil and Plant Sampling, Handling, Storage and Analysis for 16 participants selected from the project’s research partners and the national agricultural research systems (NARS) in Nigeria. The participants were PhD and MSc students from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, and technicians from FUNAAB, NRCRI and IITA.
IITA-ACAI’s Senior Systems Agronomist, Dr. Stefan Hauser conducted the three-day event from 19 to 21 September 2017 at IITA Ibadan campus.
The training introduced participants to proper sampling procedures and handling of soil and plant samples. It emphasized the importance of recording sample mass data in the field and correct packaging before analysis. The latter being of importance to avoid contamination of samples, as it would compromise the integrity of data.
The trainees were also introduced to equipment used for plant and soil analysis, especially equipment currently in use in the IITA-ACAI project research and experimental activities.
In his remarks after the training, Dr. Hauser highlighted the need to have technicians and students well trained and equipped to take, handle, store, and prepare samples for analyses, with a keen emphasis on adhering to protocols. He noted that some students in the field do not use proper equipment and in some cases equipment used are not calibrated.
A large portion of the training was interactive with practical demonstrations addressing the specific concerns, problems and challenges technicians and students encounter in the field and in laboratories. Several specific problems were addressed with hands-on exercises and data analyses to demonstrate the errors caused by deviating from the protocol procedures.
In a feedback session, participants said their knowledge and skills in soil sampling had been significantly improved, citing the practical sessions as being particularly effective in helping them understand the processes.
For Akinsumbo Olayinka, an MSc student at FUNAAB, the training session demystified the previously complex soil sampling procedures into a task he can now handle with confidence.
“The field sessions where we actually did what we had discussed about soil sampling and harvesting as well as labelling were to me very useful because it was practical,” he said.
The workshop is part of the IITA-ACAI’s objective to build the capacity of NARS and partners in relevant skillsets that augment agronomy within host countries.