The International Potato Center (CIP) is working in East Africa to breed GMO varieties of potatoes that combine three forms of resistance to late blight — the disease that can exact costly tolls on smallholding farmers.
CIP states that the objective of the project is: “To develop and deliver bio-engineered potatoes completely resistant to late blight to reduce the costs associated with potato production, the losses caused by the disease, and farmersâ€™ exposure to harmful chemicals.“
Targeting East African potato growing countries like Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, CIP scientists have bio-engineered four locally-grown potato varieties with three resistance (3R) genes. Working closely with Ugandaâ€™s National Research Organization (NARO), early research on these
varieties has observed complete resistance to disease for the last five seasons.
Five years of field trials in multiple locations across Uganda offer strong evidence that this bioengineered Victoria potato is virtually 100 percent resistant to late blight disease and requires no chemical spraying. Because it
possesses three resistance genes acting in concert, CIP experts expect the bioengineered Victoria to hold this resistance to late blight for many years.
In the field trials, the bioengineered Victoria potatoes were cultivated without fungicides, while non-bioengineered potatoes were rapidly killed by late blight disease. Farmers who were given the opportunity to visit the fields were impressed by the ability of the well-known Victoria to withstand late blight disease without chemicals.
These bioengineered potatoes can be cultivated not only in East Africa (Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda) but also in other African countries, such as Ethiopia, and Nigeria, where CIP intends to test them with national agriculture research partners.
Source: CIP. / CGIAR