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Delivering food security and health for East Africa through resilient potatoes

Quikgro trial plots in Zomba, Malawi
"Within this project, we aim to identify climate-resilient and disease-resistant potato varieties tailored to potato production systems in Kenya and Malawi"

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. However, crops in the region are frequently affected by low yields and plant pest and diseases, with a significative impact on communities’ livelihoods.

Scientists of the James Hutton Institute, in collaboration with the University of St Andrews, are supporting a research project aimed at delivering food security and health for East Africa, which has received a GCRF Global Research Translation Award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) valued at over £1.1m, over 18 months from October 2019.

The Quikgro initiative, which aims to develop potato varieties suited to the agronomic and environmental conditions of the region, is a key component of the project and will hopefully result in economic and social benefits for smallholder farmers.

Dr Mark Taylor, a research leader within the James Hutton Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences department, said: “Within this project, we aim to identify climate-resilient and disease-resistant potato varieties tailored to potato production systems in Kenya and Malawi. The work will translate our research in potato genetics and molecular physiology – already we have demonstrated that some potato types developed by geneticists at the Hutton perform well in the warm and dry environments of East Africa.

“The best performing potato types will be assessed in more detail in field trials in which a range of quality, agronomic and disease traits will be closely monitored. Importantly, socio-economic and cultural preferences will be determined for potato markets in the East African countries. The most successful potato types will be submitted for National Performance trials in Kenya and Malawi with a view to future release in these markets.”

Researchers hope the new varieties 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.

The work builds on collaboration between the University of St Andrews and the James Hutton Institute with partners in Kenya including Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) of the Malawi Government, the International Potato Center (CIP Nairobi and Blantyre) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/delivering-food-security-and-health-east-africa-through-resilient-potatoes on 01/06/20 02:05:14 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.