Disease-free potatoes to be released to farmers
Potato farmers in the country have every reason to smile after researchers announced they have come up with a disease free seed.
Korea Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA) which is instrumental in the development of the new potatoes varieties says the seeds are now available to the farmers.
Kenya KOPIA Centre Director Dr. Kim Choong Hoe said the clean potato seed will be free from bacterial wilt, and virus which have been the major headache to the farmers for many years.
He said although the seed will not be a hundred per cent disease free, it will be a relief to the famers who will no longer use the expensive anti-fungal chemicals to fight the disease.
Nancy Nganga and Dr Peter Kinyae both from the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO), Tigoni centre have consequently embarked on intensive farmer education program to train the farmers on the benefits of the new potatoes varieties.
The researchers have clustered potato farmers from Karai in Kiambu, Ndia in Kirinyaga and Wanjohi villages in Nyandarua Counties respectively where they are trained on the best methods to use in the production of disease free commodities.
“We are encouraging our farmers to go for the disease free potato seeds they can now access with ease,” Nganga told the farmers.
Speaking during a one day workshop on emerging potato production in the country at the Muguga KALRO centre, the researchers said harvesting, storage and poor marketing are some of the challenges facing the farmers.
Nganga said anti- fungal sprays to control bacterial wilt are expensive given the economic inability of the small scale farmers leading to heavy crop loss but with the scientific discovery will bring about increased yields and high income earnings to the farmers.
She said the procedure used to come up with the clean potato seed are similar to those used in the banana tissue though it takes more stages before achieving high production stage.
The first step is to bring our laboratory the crop material, it sprouts before the young clean tissue at the top of the tuber is chopped and placed into a growth chamber, then transferred into a green house where mini tubers are realised before being transferred to a clean plot using KALRO systems, which then produce basic potato seeds which are totally disease free,” she said.
The researcher assured the farmers the clean seeds will be easily available while the costs will also be pocket friendly in order to boost potato production and achieve the much needed food security in the country.
Nganga said due to the bacteria and the virus menace most farmers had almost given up, but with the new variety, they can now have a sigh of relief.
The project, started a year ago has taken some of the farmers from the three main potato producing areas to South Korea for a similar training since potato has become number three staple food after maize and rice.
Ann Wanja from Wanjohi and Vincent Mbugua from Karai were some of the 16 farmers who visited South Korea for two weeks in separate trips recently.
“Multiplication of the clean seed should be the motto as the country grapples to realise food sufficiency to its high population,’’ Dr Kim said.
He said the one year research on the crop has resulted into positive discoveries and added that more funds will be available for further research and to bring more farmers on board in the next two years.
Kim urged the farmers to increase productivity, commercialization and competitiveness of the crop through the use of the new found quality seed.
By Irungu Mwangi