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Photo Story: Going Orange

Nov 27 2015   |   By: admin   |   0   |  

malawiIn Malawi, the International Potato Center (CIP) is working hard to get new varieties of orange fleshed sweetpotato to farmers across the country and to increase the productivity, production and consumption of the crop. Enjoy this photo story about how CIP is achieving ambitious goals in Malawi and get to know the farmers that we are working in the country to improve nutrition and livelihoods with new and improved varieties. 

Click here to view the photostory

Late Blight-Resistant Potatoes, Improved Through GM Show Promise in CIP Labs

Nov 27 2015   |   By: cpad   |   0   |  

Results from early trials conducted by CIP, show great promise in the global quest to tame late blight, the scourge of smallholder potato farmers and large producers globally.

The variety ‘Desiree’ totally damaged by Phytophthora infestans (Left) whereas two transgenic events with the 3R-gene stack (Right) present high level of resistance.

The variety ‘Desiree’ totally damaged by Phytophthora infestans (Left) whereas two transgenic events with the 3R-gene stack (Right) present high level of resistance.

CIP is dedicated to improving food security for smallholder farmers and reducing or eliminating late blight in potato would help CIP fulfill that mandate.


“Everywhere you grow potatoes, you have late blight,” says Marc Ghislain, program leader at CIP. “It is the number-one disease afflicting potato crops.”


Late blight, responsible for the 19th century Irish potato famine that led to one million deaths by starvation, still affects more than 3 million hectares of potato globally and causes economic losses estimated at 2.75 billion USD a year. In Uganda alone, loss due to late blight can be up to 60% which translates into annual loss of over 129 million USD.


Late blight’s other devastating effects include increased levels of poverty among populations dependent on potato for income and greater food insecurity.


Conventional potato breeding is slow and unpredictable, CIP program leader Greg Forbes notes, often taking decades to produce a new cultivar. By the time a gene is successfully introduced into a cultivated variety, the late blight pathogen may already have evolved the ability to overcome it.


Because of this, fungicides are the primary means farmers have to attempt to stave off against late blight’s advance, says Ghislain. Yet their application takes a significant bite out of smallholder’s profit margin that can be as much as much as one-quarter of a smallholder farmer’s annual profits.


Moreover, especially in developing countries, fungicides are often used incorrectly, reducing the efficacy of the product. Since farmers in these areas do not use protective clothing, there is an increased risk to human health, Ghislain warns.


“There would be a significant impact if we could provide to the smallholder a [potato] variety that is less dependent on fungicides” to thrive, he explains.


That’s a critical reason CIP is exploring a GM potato as one potential solution for late blight resistance. A race against the clock to stay in front of late blight and its potentially devastating effects on food security of smallholder farmers is of utmost importance.


“The GM approach is much faster than conventional breeding,” which can take decades, explains Forbes. “In theory, [late blight-resistant] genes could be incorporated into breeding materials with conventional breeding, but the time and cost are both much greater.”   


CIP researchers have tested three genes from several wild potato relatives; preliminary results have shown them to be late blight-resistant. The results of this work “left us quite optimistic,” says Ghislain.


To test whether the resistance will hold in the field, trials began this year in Uganda and will go on for several seasons.


Late blight pressure is particularly high in Southwestern Uganda, explains Forbes and CIP has been working there with potato researchers in the hopes to find a potato that is resistant to late blight.  The region “is representative of a large area where late blight is a major problem.” Moreover, Uganda has in place a regulatory framework for supporting GM crop research to combat the problem.


Isolation measures to restrict access to these research materials which are not authorized for commercialization have been taken. They range from restricting access to them by research staff only, separating test fields from other fields by a minimum of 100 meters and destroying all research material once the trial is completed.  


“The goal of the field trials in Uganda is to confirm the greenhouse results of high levels of resistance in real-world conditions,” says Forbes. “It will be during the rainy season – and that will be much more like the [actual growing] conditions in farmers’ fields.”


Similar efforts that use different resistance genes from a number of potato species are underway by researchers in many countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US, Ghislain says.


Across these trials, positive results are leading researchers to believe that a combination of GM crops, breeding and reduced fungicide application, if any, promises to be the long-term solution to fighting late blight.

New project to develop cassava seed businesses will enhance quality seed access, increase productivity and generate income in Nigeria

Nov 25 2015   |   By: admin   |   0   |  


We are pleased and proud to announce the signing of a new project entitled ‘Building an Economically Sustainable, Integrated Seed System for Cassava in Nigeria’ with $USD11.6 million funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


The four year project aims to sustainably improve farmers’ access to high quality and affordable cassava planting materials through the development and promotion of commercial models for seed provision.


The project will also build the capacity of Nigerian institutions like The National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) and the National Root Crops Research Institute in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and other stakeholders, including both men and women cassava farmers, processors and commercial seed producers to develop and put in to place a testing, field inspection and certification system for cassava seed. This will in turn help fast-track improved breeders’ cassava varieties to farmers.


This will help to ensure that good quality, disease-free planting materials are in use throughout the industry to improve productivity and incomes for farmers and their families.


The project will be coordinated by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and implemented by partners including International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Nigerian National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), the International Potato Center (CIP), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Fera Science Ltd, Context Network,  the Nigerian National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) and others.

Cassava is the most important food crop for Nigeria, the world’s largest producer. Cassava is contributing to Nigerian agricultural transformation and reducing poverty through its lowering of production costs and increasing productivity, coupled with the employment opportunities that are generated through cassava processing - which are particularly important for women and youth.


Chiedozie Egesi, Assistant Director and Head, Cassava Breeding National Root Crops Research Institute of Nigeria: “Despite the huge potentials of the crop to empower farmers, the cassava seed system has been weak and poorly organized due to lack of motivated seed entrepreneurs. Our hope is that this project will bring solution to a critical link in the crop's value chain.”


Graham Thiele, RTB Program Director: “A transformation in cassava production and processing is underway in Nigeria to fully tap the potential of this crop to contribute to economic growth and livelihoods. One of the missing pieces of the jigsaw was the provision of high quality seed of the varieties which processors and growers need. If we can get this right there is a very large multiplier effect. We need to bring all the players along a seed value chain together in a shared vision. We have a great team in Nigeria and after a lot of hard work to put together a winning proposal we can’t wait to get going.”


Commencing in 2016, the project will enhance the cassava transformation by working with four key clients including cassava farmers, commercial processor groups, village seed nurseries and government stakeholders to further support commercial seed producers.


Peter Kulakow, Head of the Cassava Breeding Unit, IITA: “This project will introduce new rapid multiplication technologies to increase the supply of high quality seed and we will engage industry and farmer participation to generate demand for new commercial varieties that meet industry and end user needs.”




CIP makes a presentation of sweetpotato value chain to high level BMZ Delegation at ILRI Campus in Nairobi

Nov 20 2015   |   By: admin   |   0   |  

On 16 November 2015,  a high level delegation from BMZ, visited ILRI, where Tawanda Muzhingi presented the International Potato Center's (CIP) progress in addressing bottlenecks in the sweetpotato value chain in Kenya and efforts to scale up the nutrition benefits of biofortified orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) with the goal is to reach 1.2 million households with under-5 year old children in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Rwanda through integrated interventions in agriculture, nutrition, utilization, and marketing to strengthen production and consumption of OFSP.

mba2The delegation which was made up of Ms. Christel Weller-Molongua (Division Head, GIZ, Agriculture and Rural Development), Ulrike Meier (Desk Officer, BMZ One World, No Hunger Initiative), Andrea Bahm (GIZ-Agriculture Programme Office), Julia Kronberg (Head of Cooperation and Development) and other embassy staff visited the ILRI campus to see first-hand the results of a collaborative engagement between the research institution and funding bodies in Germany.

On hand to lead the delegation were Iain Wright, the Deputy Director General and Shirley Tarawali, the Assistant Director General of ILRI. After welcoming remarks and an introduction delivered by Tarawali, the visiting delegation was guided through a series of presentations.

Muzhingi's work focuses on the development of OFSP puree for industrial use as well as other OFSP product development in sub-Saharan Africa. He introduced the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative led by the International Potato Center (CIP) that seeks to reduce malnutrition and improve crop income among 10 million African households by 2020 through access to improved varieties of sweetpotato and their diversified use. The initiative is currently active in 17 countries. He outlined the role that the innovations in the use of sweetpotato puree for bakery products played in these efforts. Using the information and education materials on display, Muzhingi described how CIP projects increase nutritional awareness, create demand for OFSP products and train change agents  on everything about sweetpotato.

mba3BMZ has invested significantly in sweetpotato activities in Kenya, by supporting projects that promote the production of sweetpotato flour as well as sweetpotato silage that has been proven to increase both milk yields and milk production. 


Muzhingi explained that while sweetpotato flour was also a valuable product, CIP was pushing for increased puree production, because puree resulted in up to 50% wheat substitution, while flour only resulted in 20% substitution. This therefore, meant that puree would result in higher savings generated from reduced wheat importation that would in turn free resources for improving social services such as education and healthcare. The end products made from puree would also have a higher concentration of vitamin A in the end products.

The presentation at the CIP stand ended on a high note, as the guests of honor, led by Meier, tasted the freshly baked sweetpotato bread and received ‘I Love Sweetpotato’ badges from Muzhingi.