U.S – The International Potato Center (CIP) has released a potato variety with great resistance to late blight disease, a disease responsible for the historic Irish Potato Famine and an estimated ksh1.7 trillion (USD 14 billion) in annual potato crop devastation.

The Crop Trust, a global organization that works to maintain and utilize crop diversity and consequently safeguard global food and nutrition security, assisted in the development of CIP-Matilde in conjunction with Peruvian farmers.

“Farmers around the world are facing increasing uncertainty from the effects of climate change.

“Pathogens, pests, and weeds can cause major crop losses, particularly in the developing world. By adapting our agriculture to these threats – and using the diversity of wild potato relatives to do so – we can help ensure a food-secure future,” said Benjamin Kilian, Project Coordinator, and Senior Scientist at the Crop Trust.

The variety of potatoes grown in Peru and whose seedlings were delivered to Kenya came about as a result of crossing potatoes with desirable traits with their wild relatives who could withstand diseases and climate extremes.

In order to cultivate and evaluate them for release as varieties or use in national potato breeding programs, CIP has provided research institutions in Kenya with breeding resources from the same group as Matilde, as reported by Farm Biz Africa.

The majority of farmers use fungicides to spray on their fields to control late blight, however, in developing nations, the cost of these agrochemicals can be exorbitant for smallholders and they come with risks for the environment and farming families.

“Late blight is a major concern of farmers in Africa’s main potato-growing countries, who spend a significant part of their earnings on agrochemicals to control the disease or risk losing their crop,” said potato breeder Thiago Mendes, who manages the BOLD potato project at CIP. 

He explained that while evaluating and sharing disease-resistant potatoes with breeding programs in several African countries, CIP is building capacity and raising awareness among scientists about the value of incorporating potatoes’ wild relatives in breeding.

CIP is creating potatoes with a tremendous potential to increase the food security, income, and well-being of rural communities by introducing “wild” characteristics into cultivated potatoes through traditional breeding and collaborating with farmers to choose the finest ones.

“Late blight is a big problem in my area. I usually harvest 70 to 80 sacks of potatoes, but if late blight attacks my field, I may harvest half that much.

“Matilde is an excellent potato because it isn’t affected by late blight, so we harvest more and don’t have to spend much on agrochemicals,” said Mariluz Cárdenas, who lives in Huancayo province of Peru.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.