The International Potato Center (CIP) in collaboration with the National Agricultural Innovation Institution (INIA) has unveiled a groundbreaking potato variety, ‘CIP-Matilde‘, designed to combat the devastating late blight disease of potatoes. CIP reports on the variety in its 2022 Annual Report, issued earlier today.
A Game-Changer for Farmers
Thirty-four potato varieties have already been developed and released by CIP and INIA in Peru, helping farmers increase potato yields by 10%, and boosting livelihoods and food security. CIP-Matilde stands out for its resilience.
This new variety promises to enhance resistance to late blight, a fungal disease responsible for a staggering $6.7 billion loss in 2022. The disease, notorious for causing the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, has been spreading to higher altitudes in the Andes due to warmer temperatures.
Hugo Campos, CIP’s Deputy Director General for Research, emphasized the importance of such resistant varieties, especially for smallholder farmers in the central highlands of Peru.
Unlocking Nature’s Secrets
CIP scientists have delved into the genetic makeup of wild crops to develop this blight-resistant variety. These wild relatives, ancestors of modern crops, possess a rich genetic diversity, having evolved in diverse environments.
“It’s like opening a treasure chest full of genetic keys,” remarked Thiago Mendes, Plant Breeder at CIP. Despite the challenges in crossbreeding wild and cultivated species, the results, as seen in Matilde, prove invaluable to farmers.
From Lab to Land
Field trials showcased the new varieties’ superior resistance to late blight, even outperforming popular local varieties without fungicides. However, Maria Scurrah, Plant Geneticist at Grupo Yanapai, highlighted the importance of these varieties fitting into the local context.
In a participatory evaluation phase, 40 farmers in the Central Highlands tested these varieties, revealing preferences varying by region and even gender.
Matilde’s Bright Future
Post-release, CIP-Matilde is set to revolutionize potato farming in the High Andes. While tailored for the Andes, its potential reaches beyond Peru. Varieties derived from Matilde are already being shared in African nations, including Kenya, where potatoes play a crucial role in the livelihood of millions.
With CIP-Matilde leading the charge, the future looks promising for farmers battling late blight, not just in Peru but globally.