A new potato breeding technique can help to increase food security. This is the opinion of the authors of a book about the hybrid potato, which was published today. The book, a publication of Wageningen Academic Publishers and KIT Royal Tropical Institute, discusses both the technical innovation of the hybrid potato, and ways of providing access to hybrid potato seeds to small-scale farmers.
Hybrid breeding makes it possible to breed potato varieties with new properties in a relatively short period of time. For example, a variety can be made that is resistant to certain diseases, so that fewer pesticides are needed. Breeding can proceed quickly and efficiently with hybrid seed as starting material for potato cultivation.
Working with hybrid seed instead of tubers has many advantages, especially for small-scale farmers. Seed is easy to transport, disease-free and can be stored for a long time without any problems. Only 25 grams of seed is needed per hectare instead of 2000 kilograms of seed potatoes. In addition, the production of hybrid potato seed only requires one season, where previously 5 to 8 seasons were required.
Peter Gildemacher, potato expert at KIT Royal Tropical Institute and co-author of the book: ‘The hybrid potato can contribute to an unprecedented improvement in the productivity of potatoes in Africa. When combined with good information, the hybrid potato can double the income of potato farmers, reduce the yield gap between Africa and the rest of the world, and lower the price of potatoes for consumers. This technology offers a radically different way of providing good starting material to small potato farmers in Africa, something that has been the biggest limitation in potato cultivation on that continent for decades.”
Peter Gildemacher is co-founder of the Sepia Foundation. This foundation seeks to help make the hybrid potato accessible to small-scale farmers, to begin with in East Africa. The aim is to strengthen food security through the sustainable cultivation of hybrid potatoes. Sepia is committed to demonstrating the added value of hybrid potatoes and training farmers to grow them.