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PCN: ‘How we’re getting to the root of a global pest threatening potatoes in East Africa’

Demand for potatoes in eastern Africa has been growing steadily , achieving an annual growth of 3.1% between 1993 and 2020. This growth is driven in part by rising demand from the fast food industry and for processing into high value products such as crisps, chips and starch, reports Danny Coyne for The Middle East North Africa Financial Network (MENAFN).

Coyne writes that despite an increase of 60% in the area of cultivated land, production has been declining from an average of 20 tonnes a hectare to around 9.1 in Rwanda, 8.6 in Kenya and 4.3 in Uganda. This is way below the potential production of 40 tonnes a hectare. Farmers are thus being denied much-needed income and food.

According the Coyne, “The factors contributing to the low and declining yields include losses due to attack by a range of pests and diseases. A second main reason is the repeated cropping of potato on the same land without rotation. Third is the use of poor quality or substandard seed, partly due to limited availability of certified high quality seed.”

Potato cyst nematodes (PCN) are the most recent pest threat to emerge in the region. They infect potato roots, suppressing crop growth and can cause huge yield losses of up to 80%, and even total crop failure.

Says Coyne: “Given the complex nature of cyst nematode biology and that the eggs are protected by the cyst, targeting the nematode during hatching and just before it invades host roots, stands out as the most vulnerable life stage to target for their management.”

Source: MENAFN. Read the full article here

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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