International Potato Centre (CIP) research scientists are working with private companies in Kenya – that have facilities for tissue culture technology – to produce rooted apical cuttings to sell to potato seed producers.
The use of farm-saved seeds by potato farmers in Kenya, which is the common practice throughout the country, comes with many challenges. “Some of them have bacterial seed-borne diseases, others viral or fungal such as late potato blight,” says Dr Dinah Borus, an agronomist and the North Rift Field Coordinator for CIP.
Through a CIP initiative farmers are trained in potato seed production using rooted apical cuttings. Dr Borus explains that an apical cutting is similar to a nursery-grown seedling except that it is produced through vegetative means and does not originate from a seed. The initiative is supported by the ‘Feed the Future Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD),’ a US government food security initiative in Kenya.
“Most of the potato farmers in the country have been planting inferior seeds, which is mainly leftovers from their harvests, and because of this, the yields have been very poor in terms of quality and quantity,” said Nancy Chebii, the Ol’lessos ward agricultural officer in Nandi County. The apical cutting technology has been endorsed by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), and it has been incorporated in the seed system as starter materials to produce certified potato seeds.