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CIP Staff Participates in the Sensorial Evaluation of New Potato Clones

May 18 2015   |   By: veronique   |   0   |  

Twenty potato varieties were grown under 5 contrasting environments in Peru and have been tested by 40 volunteer panelists, who evaluated the taste and the texture of boiled potato tubers of 4 clones per day for a week. The panelists belong to different areas of CIP, such as administration, laboratories, and experimental field stations.

“For our first experiment, we used 15 clones of late-blight-resistant and heat-tolerant potato clones planted under five contrasting environmental conditions: in San Ramón, La Molina in summer and in winter, Majes (Arequipa), and Huancayo,” explained Gabriela Burgos, Associate Researcher at CIP’s Disciplinary Center of Excellence “Genetics, Genomics and Crop Improvement”, and Head of the Quality and Nutrition Lab at CIP in Lima/Peru. “San Ramón is an environment with conditions of heat stress, while Majes has conditions of drought stress . The idea of the evaluation is to discover whether the environment conditions such as soil and climate affects the taste of the potato,” she added.

“It is the first time that this kind of study has been performed at CIP,” continued Gabriela Burgos. “We have limited financial resources, but we hope that in the near future more attention will be given by donors to sensorial evaluation of all potato breeding material developed at CIP., That is especially important under worldwide appearing climate change conditions affecting agriculture systems with increased different types of abiotic stresses such as heat and drought but also irregular rainfall. Protection mechanisms of plants include accumulation of secondary metabolites that could affect the taste and texture, of potato tubers and even can be toxic for human consumption when reaching an unsafe level” she explained.

analisis sensorial

“We have assured that at least 75 % of the panelists are the same participants for all 5 growing environments, to ensure that the results are comparable and not biased by personal likes,” explained Edith Cayhualla, research assistant in CIP’s Quality and Nutrition Laboratory in Lima/Peru. “The results of this study will let us know under which environmental conditions the tested potato clones varieties are on risk to develop a bitter/astringent taste, change the flesh color or change the texture/mouthfeeling that makes them less acceptable for end users,” Edith said.

The results of the sensorial evaluation will also be linked with the concentration of glycoalkaloids and other secondary metabolites to determine whether the observed bitterness is due to an increase in these components. “Medium -term we hope to develop a fast screening technique for detecting unsafe levels of secondary metabolites that produce a non-acceptable taste in advanced breeding clones before they become a new variety” explained Dr. Thomas zum Felde, who leads the project .

analisis sensorial

For the panelists, who have been working for many years at CIP, this sensorial evaluation has been a new – but not wholly strange – experience. “It’s the first time I have participated in this kind of evaluation,” said Cecilia Ferreyra, the librarian. “It seemed easy, but I think that’s probably because I am so used to the topic of quality, color, and other characteristics that the potato should have for me. I think that if they asked me to do the same taste testing for a different crop, for example sweet potato, I wouldn’t be able to answer very precisely, and even less so if it were another root or tuber crop such as oca, mashua, or arracacha,” she added.

However, to be a good panelist you need to be able to recognize or detect a bad or different taste. “Not all the participants have that skill, but we have already identified those who do, and we are very pleased that they will be participating until the experiment comes to an end,” Edith Cayhualla.

Idaho Governor, US Ambassador lead delegation visit to CIP

May 11 2015   |   By: joel-ranck   |   0   |  

The delegation met CIP representatives Dr. Oscar Ortiz, Deputy Director of Research and Development, Michael Gerba, Chief Operating Officer, and Dr. David Ellis, Director of CIP’s Genebank who delivered a presentation on CIP’s seat in the center of potato diversity, its role in food security and nutrition, and its work in 30 countries worldwide. Dr. Ellis showed the delegation the richness of the CIP Genebank and explained its role in conserving and preserving potato, sweetpotato, and Andean root and tuber diversity for research, the benefit of humanity and future generations.

The visit was part of a six day trade mission to Peru and Mexico that included representatives of the state’s potato, milk, onion, oilseed and seed industries.

Idaho’s potato industry was represented by Seth Pemsler, vice president of the Idaho Potato Commission’s retail and international divisions, as well as two University of Idaho potato researchers.

US Ambassador Nichols and Gov. Otter visit CIP
US Ambassador Nichols (first on left) and Gov. Otter (thrid from left) visit CIP

University of Idaho (UI) food scientist Bob Haggerty said UI wants to establish a more effective research collaboration with international potato researchers.

“We will be looking for synergies and trying to see what we can do to help Idaho’s potato industry,” he told Capitol Ag Press.

US Ambassador Nichols, Idaho Governor Otter in CIP Genebank
US Ambassador Nichols, Idaho Governor Otter in CIP Genebank

Strengthening the Supply of Quality Seed Potato to Farmers in Tanzania

May 11 2015   |   By: david-dudenhoefer   |   0   |  

Kisava was referring to the seed potato of an improved variety that he obtained at the end of 2014 thanks to a CIP initiative to expand farmer access to quality seed potato in order to improve food security and incomes in his country. He explained that he planted 25 kilograms of the improved seed potato and that they produced a harvest of nearly 800 kg. “This has never happened in my life,” he said.

Kisava’s experience is an exception to the rule for most of Africa’s six million potato farmers, whose potato yields are far below the global average. Potato is an important food security and cash crop for smallholders in the African highlands, but most of them produce a mere fraction of the potatoes they could harvest due to poor seed quality and other deficiencies. CIP is trying to change this by supporting national agricultural institutions to evaluate improved potato varieties that are adapted to local conditions, while promoting economically viable systems to produce and distribute quality seed potato at prices that smallholders can afford.

While potato breeders at CIP and its African partners have developed improved potato varieties with high yields and resistance to many diseases, getting them into the hands of the farmers that need them most has proven to be a major challenge. Most of Africa’s potato farmers either select planting materials of the next crop from their own harvests or buy them from neighbors or informal suppliers. The problem is that potatoes tend to accumulate viruses and other diseases that are transmitted from one crop cycle to the next via seed tubers. Accumulation of such pathogens in potato planting materials will progressively reduce the quality and quantity of harvests significantly over time. CIP is consequently partnering with national agricultural research systems, and increasingly the private sector, to build local capacity for the generation, multiplication and distribution of seed potato.

seed potato

CIP deployed an array of tools to accomplish this in Tanzania during a three-year seed potato development project funded by the Government of Finland that ended in March 2015. CIP co-implemented the initiative with the University of Helsinki (UH), in collaboration with three Tanzanian institutions: Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (ARI Mikocheni), the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI), and Uyole Agricultural Research Institute (ARI Uyole). The project goal was to improve the livelihoods of smallholder potato farmers through increased productivity, which it accomplished by supporting the relevant Tanzanian agencies to improve their ability to produce and promote the use of quality seed potato in five districts in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Interventions focused on developing human capacity and skills as seed potato production is highly technical activity requiring diverse skills; rehabilitating laboratories to produce tissue culture plantlets and conduct disease diagnostics; and investing in infrastructure to rapidly produce seed potato, such as greenhouses for protected production of minitubers, one of the first stages of seed potato production. “This project has set a foundation that had been long overdue. It has opened new possibilities in potato research and seed production for Tanzania,” said Dr. Zacharia Malley, zonal Director of Research and Development at ARI-Uyole. “Most importantly, however, the project developed a business plan for which seed potato will be part of the product line of the Farm Production Unit at ARI Uyole.”

Training was provided for private and community seed multipliers, in order to ensure that the clean seed is multiplied and distributed to more farmers as far as possible. Agricultural extension officers were also trained to identify and train farmers in proper potato production practices to multiply seed, and maintain quality seed on farm through positive selection techniques from their own harvests. A CIP trainers manual on positive selection was translated from English to Kiswahili, the national language, for the training of trainers.

seed potato

One of those trainers is Peter Mgova, a potato farmer in Boma la Ng’ombe, in Kilolo district, who explained that he planted 25 kg of the improved potato variety Meru, which resulted in a harvested of 700 kg. “I recognized that seed of the new varieties has got very high yields compared to our local varieties,” He said. “I recognize that we have been making a lot of losses by planting old potato varieties. I will spread this news to fellow farmers and encourage them to start growing the new varieties to realize similar benefits.”

Thanks to the logistical support of Finland and the technical capacity that CIP and UH contributed to building at the Tanzanian institutions for production of improved seed potato, together with the knowledge and commitment instilled in farmers like Mgova and Kisava, a growing number of potato farmers and their families can look forward to better yields, higher incomes and greater food security in the future.

Sweetpotato Seed Systems to Improve Nutrition in Northern Ethiopia

May 07 2015   |   By: margaret-mcewan   |   0   |  

Dr. Beyene Demstu is a researcher in biotechnology, based at the Mekele Agricultural Research Institute, Tigray Region, Ethiopia. He was speaking in Kigali, Rwanda, where he was attending the annual face-face-meeting of the Seed Systems Community of Practice. The meeting, which took place on 28 and 29 May 2015, brought together 40 sweetpotato specialists from all corners of Africa to tackle the issues around farmers’ seed constraints.

His career is a calling and a tradition. Farming is in his blood. “I live in the northern part of Ethiopia, where agriculture has been practiced for more than 3,000 years.” In 1984, a devastating famine ravaged his motherland Ethiopia. His home area in the northern region was also affected. Demstu survived on bread for over 11 months. Others were not as lucky. Nationwide, over one million people starved to death in less than a year. People migrated and family separated. “There are some families who still don’t know where their loved ones are,” Demstu says. These experiences strengthened his resolve and interest to work on improving seed varieties.

Dr. Beyene Demtsu of Tigrai Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) Dr. Beyene Demtsu of Tigrai Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) asks a question during a learning visit to Rubona Research Station in Rwanda

Sweetpotato is new to my region but it has a big potential

Demstu has been a breeder for over twenty years, working on biotechnology and tissue culture, with a focus on highland legumes, wheat and barley. Three years ago, he started research work on sweetpotato. He is convinced of the value of promoting sweetpotato, in particular the Vitamin A rich orange-fleshed varieties. “Sweetpotato is very new to my region but it has a very big potential. Malnutrition of children under five years is 30-40% and most of it is Vitamin A deficiency. With sweetpotato, you can feed the children and improve their nutrition status.” In collaboration with the International Potato Center, Demstu is working on methods to increase the multiplication rate of sweetpotato so that there is more, good quality seed to reach more households and to avoid future hunger. “All I do is to try and assist farmers get clean planting material.”

The Community of Practice a source of experience and knowledge

As a member of the Seed Systems Community of Practice, Demstu is tapping into useful knowledge on biotechnology and sweetpotato. “I do not have to reinvent the wheel, just listen and learn from those who have more experience and knowledge,” he explains. One of the greatest outcomes, according to Demstu, is how the relationship with scientists across Africa has facilitated the release of new sweetpotato varieties in his country.

SPHI Sweetpotato Seed Systems COP - Kigali, Rwanda Dr. Beyene Demtsu of Tigrai Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) and Antony Masinde of Farm Concern International introduce themselves ahead of the Seed Systems Community of Practice Meeting in Kigali (Credit: C. Bukania)

Improving sweetpotato production is only one step. He knows that it is not going to be easy to get his community to eat more sweetpotato, but knowing its value, he is ready to do all it takes to get the new crop accepted. “It is a crop that can improve food and nutrition security and help to build a brilliant future generation.”

The Seed Systems Community of Practice is part of the Sweetpotato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI). SPHI is a 10-year, multi donor initiative that seeks to reduce child malnutrition and improve smallholder incomes through the effective production and expanded use of sweetpotato. It aims to build consumer awareness or sweetpotato’s nutritional benefits, diversify its use, and increase market opportunities, especially in expanding urban markets of Sub-Saharan Africa. The SPHI is expected to improve the lives of 10 million households by 2020 in 17 target countries.

Members of the Seed Systems Community of Practice hold discussions during their annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda Members of the Seed Systems Community of Practice hold discussions during their annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda

Scientists call for action to preserve potato wild relatives

May 05 2015   |   By: veronique   |   0   |  

“Crop wild relatives have evolved under natural selection in their native range coming to be adapted to specific conditions such as high temperatures, salinity, and assorted pests and diseases,” explains Nora Castañeda-Álvarez, the lead author and scientist at CIAT’s Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) research team. “Such traits can be bred into crop plants, greatly benefiting agricultural production, but only if these germplasm resources are made available to breeders,” she adds.

The potato’s CWR are already widely used in global breeding programs, and their contribution to agriculture should only increase as breeders search for tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses and as the development of molecular tools and biotechnology makes the identification and utilization of diverse genetic materials more efficient. As agriculture faces climate change, their potential for utilization is such that the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK are currently leading a project entitled “Adapting agriculture to climate change: collecting, protecting and preparing crop wild relatives.”

In the case of potato, one of the world’s most important food crops grown in over 125 countries, some wild species are sources of valuable traits offering resistance to frost and late blight, one of the most devastating potato diseases worldwide. The tuber crop has proven to be vulnerable to climate change, with growing areas moving upwards in the Andes, and a potential increase of pests and diseases due to rising temperatures. Habitat destruction is a main threat for continued in situ conservation of the potato’s CWR, particularly given the fact that many of them are highly endemic.

Under the umbrella of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), scientists of the International Potato Center (CIP) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have collaborated and analyzed the state of ex situ conservation of 73 of the closest wild relatives of potato (Solanum section Petota): a “gap analysis” aimed to critically analyze the present-day representativeness of public genebank collections globally, determine high priority geographic areas for collecting CWR in order to fill the gaps in genebanks, and also to identify species that need attention for in situ conservation monitoring. Significant gaps were found in global ex situ collections: in order to address them, a total of 32 species (43.8%) were consequently assigned high priority for further collecting.

Wild potatoes (A. Salas/CIP)

Wild potatoes (A. Salas/CIP)

“In remote areas of the Andean highlands, access to species was very limited,” explains Alberto Salas, an agronomist at the International Potato Center (CIP) who spent decades studying potato varieties and distribution in the Americas, collecting a wide array of wild potato germplasm.  CIP has identified more than 4,300 different varieties of edible potatoes, along with numerous wild potatoes species (it is host to the largest potato collection in the world, with more than 7000 potato accessions safeguarded in its genebank). “Now road construction itself, along with climate change, can also represent a threat to these species as their habitat is changing,” Salas adds, before informing that:  “The S. aymarasense can’t be found in Chalhuanca, Apurímac anymore since they built a road. Fortunately the species is in the CIP’s genebank. In Huancayo, department of Junín, the construction of the Pahual village has led to the disappearance of S. rhomboideilanceolatum.

Also as a result of the analysis, a total of 20 and 18 wild potato species were assessed as medium and low priority for further collecting, respectively. Priorities for further collecting include:

  • Species completely lacking representation in germplasm collections, specifically ayacuchense, S. olmosense and S. salasianum in Peru and S. neovavilovii in Bolivia.
  • Other high priority species, with geographic emphasis on the center of species diversity, specifically 28 species that are currently present yet severely underrepresented in genebanks.
  • Medium priority species that are needed for increasing the representativeness of the complete genepool in ex situ

According to the authors of the study, such collecting efforts are key steps in ensuring the long-term availability of the wild potato genetic resources. They should also be combined with increased efforts to improve ex situ conservation technologies and methods, perform genotypic and phenotypic characterization of wild relative diversity, monitor wild populations in situ, and make conserved wild relatives and their associated data accessible to the global research community.

“In times when new collection expeditions are difficult to conduct, climate change is a reality and habitat destruction is widespread, it is essential that in situ reserves are established,” says second author Stef de Haan. “In situ conservation is complementary to genebanks and can support ongoing evolution and adaptive shifts in population genetics,” he asserts.

Castañeda-Álvarez NP, de Haan S, Juárez H, Khoury CK, Achicanoy HA, Sosa CC, Bernau V, Salas A, Heider B, Simon R, Maxted N, Spooner DM (2015). Ex situ conservation priorities for the wild relatives of potato (Solanum L. section Petota). PLOS ONE

See also:

Poster with main highlights of this research:

Crop Wild Relatives and Climate Change website

 By Véronique Durroux-Malpartida

Solanum incamayoense

Solanum incamayoense - A potato wild relative growing in a greenhouse of the INTA Balcarce research station for regeneration (Credit: Ariana Digilio/INTA, Balcarce)