Potato breeders strive to develop varieties with the agronomic and consumer traits that farmers and the market demand, but once a new variety is released in a developing country, it is difficult to know how many farmers adopt it. A study of the adoption and impact of improved potato varieties in Peru published in 2017 holds valuable information for potato breeders and policy makers, and confirms that CIP’s potato breeding program has made an important contribution to smallholder production and incomes.
CIP Agricultural Economist Willy Pradel, the study’s lead author, explained that there was previously a lack of reliable data on which varieties Peru’s farmers were growing. Government agricultural censuses group the country’s 2,500 potato varieties into just three categories – white, yellow or native potatoes – whereas expert consultations that produce adoption estimates for specific varieties are less than optimal.
“We need rigorous information about what is happening in the countryside. We can’t effectively breed new varieties, or design strategies for seed systems, if we don’t know which varieties farmers are growing and why,” Willy said.
CIP thus partnered with Peru’s National Institute for Agricultural Innovation (INIA), which has evaluated and released 34 CIP-bred potato varieties over the past four decades, for a comprehensive assessment of potato varietal adoption. Together they interviewed 1,098 farmers in 120 potato-farming areas of 11 regions in 2013. The researchers used a methodology that ensured the sample was statistically representative of 86 percent of the country’s potato production.
They found that approximately 38 percent of Peru’s farmland dedicated to potato was planted with native varieties and 62 percent with improved varieties. More than 33 percent (91,000 hectares) of the potato area was planted with CIP-bred varieties, three of which – Canchán, Amarilis and UNICA – accounted for 27 percent. Researchers found that farmers who grew improved varieties sold more potatoes and earned more money than their neighbors who didn’t, and that CIP-bred varieties produced one ton more potatoes per hectare – almost 10 percent more yield – than the other improved varieties.
In addition to documenting the economic benefits of CIP-bred varieties, the authors found that some are mainly grown in specific regions. Amarilis, for example, occupies 40-44 percent of the potato area in northern Peru, where the variety was tested through the farmer field schools in the late 1990s. They suggest that variety dissemination efforts target specific agro-ecologies, and tap the power of the market to increase adoption. They also identified factors that determine whether farmers adopt improved varieties, such as agronomic training and an understanding of the benefits of improved varieties, which increase the likelihood of adoption.
This information can help CIP and INIA develop and disseminate the next generation of improved potato varieties.
Read the study (Spanish only)