Potato is a key food and cash crop contributing both to food security and the local economy in Kenya, Malawi and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists from the James Hutton Institute in collaboration with the University of St Andrews in the UK are supporting an innovative research project aiming to develop potato varieties suited to the agronomic and environmental conditions of the region, which will result in economic and social benefits for smallholder farmers.
Typically, in sub-Saharan Africa potatoes are grown in the cooler, highland areas. The aim of this project is to expand the area under production by developing varieties able to grow in warmer conditions found at lower altitudes.
Building on the outcomes of several research projects, potato scientists aim to combine stress tolerance with the development of early maturing varieties, which would be able to reach full maturity in 60-70 days instead of over 100 days for most commercial varieties.
Researchers hope Quikgro potatoes will produce tubers that bulk quickly in warmer environments, mitigating the effect of short rainy seasons and droughts, with enhanced disease resistance and a better rotation fit with other crops such as rice and wheat.
Project leader Professor Lesley Torrance said: “We are very pleased to receive funding to continue working with colleagues in Malawi and Kenya to develop potatoes that are more resilient to the growing conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Potato is an important food and cash crop in the region and increased production will contribute to economic growth and prosperity along the whole potato supply chain.”
The Quikgro initiative is a collaboration between the University of St Andrews, James Hutton Institute, the International Potato Center (CIP), Malawi’s Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) and Kenya’s Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST). It is funded by a Global Challenges Research Fund Foundation award from Research Councils UK (RCUK).
Prof Lesley Torrance on Twitter: @ltorra_l
Photo: James Hutton researchers met recently in Malawi in the context of Quikgro potato varieties.
Source: The James Hutton Institute