NIGERIA – A collaborative effort between the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), and the International Centre for Potatoes has yielded promising results in the fight against late blight disease in potatoes.
The initiative, part of the Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership (GBPP) project, is spearheaded by Dr. Charles Amadi, the Principal Investigator of GBPP.
Late blight, a relentless potato disease causing up to 100% crop loss, has plagued Nigerian farmers for over three decades in key potato-growing regions such as Jos, Plateau State; Obudu, Cross River State; and Mambila Plateau, Taraba State.
However, the introduction of biotech potatoes, incorporating the 3R gene from potato wild relatives, has emerged as a game-changer.
Dr. Amadi expressed excitement over the project’s promising results, emphasizing the potential of biotech potatoes to significantly mitigate the devastation caused by late blight outbreaks.
The first-year multilocational confined field trial showcased an impressive 100% resistance to late blight in the biotech potato, compared to an 80–100% loss in non-biotech varieties.
Farmers participating in the trials lauded the modified potato for its remarkable yield, reduced production costs, and minimal environmental impact.
Mrs. Rosemary Samson, Chairlady of Kusuku Potatoes Farmers Association in Taraba State, commended the variety for its high productivity and urged the government to expedite the commercialization process to benefit farmers.
Genesis Johnson, Chairman of Potato Farmers from Gembu, expressed astonishment at the resistance of the biotech potato to pests and diseases. He highlighted the potential for increased income and food production, urging the government to provide farmers access to this revolutionary variety.
Dr. Shuaibu Kahya, the GBPP Trial Manager, emphasized the importance of this breakthrough in addressing late blight, which has long been a menace to potato crops.
The project is a collaboration between MSU, the International Potato Center (CIP), the University of Minnesota, the University of Idaho, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), and partner country National Agricultural Research Systems; Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), and Nigeria’s National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI). Building the capacity of the National Agriculture Research Systems, or NARS, to conduct this research in the four countries is also a primary goal of the project.
The project also works with local partner country organizations such as Farming Future Bangladesh.
The project is funded through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
As the project gains momentum, farmers are optimistic about the future of potato cultivation in Nigeria.