THE prices of yam tubers along the highways in Benue and Ebonyi States, Federal Capital Territory, Delta-Edo axis of the Lagos-Benin-Asaba expressway and markets may soon skyrocket, with farmers smiling to the banks.
Reason: a joint research by the Tokyo University of Agriculture and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan is focusing on the ‘Yellow yam,’ Dioscorea cayenensis to extract diosgenin, an active ingredient vital to the fertility industry.
If the research yields a convincing result, however, it could cost more to eat pounded yam, a delicacy in many parts of the country.
Dr. Ryo Matsumoto, lead researcher from Tokyo University of Agriculture (but based in IITA for the project), told The Guardian that the Yellow yam from Edo State is attracting interest due to its potentials for fertility issues.
Matsumoto, a physiologist and visiting scientist, said other species of yam in Nigeria would be researched, however, the yellow variety takes the lead, as scientists run schedules from test tubes to spectrophotometers, amid volumes of reagents in laboratories.
As soon as results, which are being awaited with optimism, are ready, other species would come into focus, he revealed.
Over the years, Matsumoto recounts, “the U.S. used ‘wild yam’, and Japan, D. esculenta. But now, attention is shifting to local varieties in Nigeria.”
Diosgenin is important for medical purposes. It has been used in the manufacture of birth control pills and is an essential component in high blood pressure management.
Diosgenin is a female hormone precursor for the manufacture of contraceptive pills. When converted to pregnenolone, it is used to aid fertility, among other medical uses.