GMO, Pests and Diseases

Uganda’s new, improved disease-resistant gmo potato variety

A new improved type of potato has been developed at the Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) near Kabale. The disease-resistant Irish potato variety was produced via biotechnology and is said to be able to ensure high yields for food security and income generation. KZARDI director, Dr Alex Barekye and the project investigator, Dr Andrew Kiggundu said the new variety has been tested for two years. It can be planted without the use of any fungicide in between planting and harvesting. The development comes at a time when farmers are counting losses due to late bright disease, which destroys their potato gardens while others are spending a lot of their hard-earned money on fungicides to fight the disease.

According to the research carried out by the institute, Irish potato is grown by more than 300,000 smallholder households, producing a total of 800,000 tonnes on 112,000 hectares. By 2015, the demand for Irish potato was up to one million metric tonnes. But potato late blight is one of the most devastating diseases causing up to 60 per cent yield loss in the sector. Uganda losses are up to $128m annually due to the disease.
“We have produced a disease-resistant variety through biotechnology to boost production. We have proved that this variety produces high yields and it can help on issues of food security,” said Dr Barekye. ”All we need is the Parliament to pass the biotechnology Bill so that we can distribute it to farmers.”
The potato farmers and seed producers are now considering collecting signatures to petition the Speaker of Parliament and the President, to demand the immediate passing of the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill that was first tabled before Parliament in 2012.

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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