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Scottish potato expertise supporting root, tuber and banana breeders in Africa

African landscape (courtesy RTBfoods project)
“This project builds on our previous work on potato in collaboration with African scientists and highlights our ability to transfer knowledge from one crop to another”

Scientists from the James Hutton Institute are taking part in an international research effort aimed at pinpointing the quality traits that determine the adoption of new root, tuber and banana (RTB) varieties of cassava, yam, sweet potato, plantain and tropical potato developed by breeders in Africa.

Just as there are potato varieties for making chips and others more suitable for mashed potato, some tropical roots and tubers varieties have specific uses. For instance, making cassava fufu, a boiled dough-like product, involves several operations such as fermenting, peeling, removing the fibres, etc. However high-yielding a new variety is, if it does not ferment well or if it complicates fibre removal, it will not be adopted. 

This project will serve to link local consumer preferences with quantitative quality criteria, before integrating these criteria into breeding programs. The aim is to ensure more widespread adoption of improved varieties, hence boosting food security and farmers’ incomes.

The €11.5 million RTBfoods project (Breeding RTB Products for End User Preferences), launched at the end of 2017, is a 5-year effort funded by the Gates Foundation and involving consumers, processors and researchers from France, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Uganda and Benin.

The research consortium is led by France's Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), with whom the James Hutton Institute is a collaborating party.

Project leader Dr Dominique Dufour, a cassava specialist at CIRAD, said: “When we look at plantains, yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes or cassava, it is clear that the 'elite' varieties produced by breeding programs are not popular with farmers or other value chain stakeholders.”

Professor Derek Stewart, agri-food leader at the James Hutton Institute, commented: “Our expertise and knowledge across the potato sector from fundamental science to end product quality has been acknowledged and positions us well to help here with the improvement of sister starch staple crops.”

Dr Mark Taylor, who coordinates Hutton involvement in RTBfoods, added: “This project builds on our previous work on potato in collaboration with African scientists and highlights our ability to transfer knowledge from one crop to another.”

To learn more about RTBfoods, read the project press release on the CIRAD website.

More information from: 

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

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Printed from /news/scottish-potato-expertise-supporting-root-tuber-and-banana-breeders-africa on 23/01/19 09:53:32 PM

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.