Improved selection of seed potatoes gives thirty percent more spuds

Jun 28, 2012 by Albert Sikkema

Farmers in East Africa can increase potato yields by 30 percent by improving their selection of seed potatoes. Wageningen University PhD student Peter Gildemacher says that a substantial reduction in disease pressure is possible if they only use seed potatoes from healthy parent plants.

East African farmers, who are mostly small-scale, currently select their seed potatoes from the mass of harvested potatoes. That results in lots of virus diseases and potato brown rot, as well as low yields of an average of 10.5 tons per hectare. That is why international organizations are advising farmers to buy their seed potatoes from specialized seed potato companies. But that requires a change in - currently the small-scale farmers use their own potatoes or swap with their - and will increase costs for the farmers. That is why only 5 percent of the seed potatoes in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia comes from such specialized companies.

Gildemacher studied the reintroduction of what was thought to be an unnecessary technique: selecting seed potatoes from that look healthy. He carried out field trials at 18 different locations to investigate the effect of self-selection when compared with the standard practice in which farmers take their seed potatoes from the mass of harvested potatoes. These field trials showed that self-selection increased yields by 30 percent while the disease pressure from potato viruses fell by between 35 and 40 percent. The big advantage, says Gildemacher, is that selecting the seed potatoes themselves costs the farmers virtually nothing whereas the return on a hectare of potatoes increases by 250 to 300 euros.

After his field trials, Gildemacher, who worked for the International Potato Center (CIP) in from 2003 to 2007, developed a cost-effective training module to teach large numbers of small-scale farmers how to select the best seed potatoes themselves. He does point out that the will still need to replace their stock of seed potatoes regularly with disease-free starting material obtained from the specialized companies. Gildemacher's approach has now been adopted in the farming guidelines in Kenya and is also being introduced in countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique and Angola. These countries want to increase the productivity of potato crops so that they can meet the growing demand.

Explore further: Polyethylene mulch, glazing create optimal conditions for soil solarization

More information: Peter Gildemacher has been awarded his doctorate on 20 June, with Paul Struik, professor of Crop and Weed Ecology, and Cees Leeuwis, professor of Communication and Innovation Studies.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using less water to grow more potatoes

Sep 01, 2011

Research conducted in part at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that in some production systems, planting potatoes in flat beds can increase irrigation water use efficiency.

Gene expression reveals how potatoes are cultivated

May 03, 2012

Organically grown potatoes have a higher gene expression of starch production than conventional ones. This statement is put forward by RIKILT, part of Wageningen UR, researcher Jeroen van Dijk, who can tell organically grown ...

Recommended for you

How photosynthesis changed the planet

Nov 20, 2014

Two and a half billion years ago, single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria harnessed sunlight to split water molecules, producing energy to power their cells and releasing oxygen into an atmosphere that ...

From dried cod to tissue sample preservation

Nov 19, 2014

Could human tissue samples be dried for storage, instead of being frozen? Researchers are looking at the salt cod industry for a potential tissue sample drying technology that could save money without sacrificing tissue quality.

Riding a food fad to an opportunity

Nov 18, 2014

Until a couple years ago, Shaun Paul's knowledge of chia was limited to the kitschy terracotta Chia Pet figurines. But recently, chia seeds, promoted as a nutritional powerhouse, have earned a growing consumer ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.