Feeding the future

Beijing, China. Top officials from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, including Han Changfu, Minister of Agriculture, and from the International Potato Center (CIP) gathered today in a formal signing ceremony to launch the CIP-China Center for Asia and the Pacific (CCCAP). Located in Beijing, the Center will host an international array of scientists and scholars dedicated to potato and sweetpotato research. Their focus will be on advancing ways these crops can more fully contribute to food security and income generation in China and the greater Asia-Pacific region.

In the next 20 years, China expects that it will need to increase food production by 100 million tons to feed its growing population. Fully half of that growth is expected to come from potatoes, underscoring the timeliness of a major center focused on this food staple. China is the world’s leading producer of both potato and sweetpotato; with yields equaling 75 million and 104 million tons per year, respectively. More than 1.3 billion people consume potatoes in China, where it is also a key cash crop, especially for poor farmers. Sweetpotato is an important food staple in impoverished areas, and it is increasingly used for animal feed, processed foods (e.g., noodles, snacks), and other manufacturing purposes (e.g., starch, sugars, alcohol).

“Remarkable progress has been made thanks to our collaboration with CIP in three key areas: The first includes improvements in potato and sweetpotato germplasm and breeding materials; prevention and detection of pests and diseases; and field management and post-harvest processing and utilization. The second involves significant social and economic benefits from the CIP materials and technologies. And the third involves a wealth of training which has helped form some of our country’s leading potato and sweetpotato scientists,” notes a release from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

The CCCAP will be the first officially recognized international scientific research organization in China. The center will build on more than 3 decades of collaboration between China and CIP. The first exchange dates back to 1978, when CIP provided China with a disease- and drought-resistant potato, called CIP-24. The CIP-24 was highly successful and is still grown today on 70,000 hectares in China, particularly in the drought-prone Northern provinces. “Little did those initial collaborators realize that they were launching down a path that would be so rich, effective, and long-lasting,” explains Dr. Pamela Anderson, CIP’s Director General. “Ours has truly been a story of friendship, collaboration, and success – one that has not only reduced hunger, but also created important scientific advances and improved millions of lives,” she adds.

The introduction of CIP-24 in China turned out to be the first of many successful exchanges, research collaborations, training partnerships, and programs to improve the yields and potential of potato and sweetpotato in China. Two recent examples include a highly effective CIP-China project to rebuild the potato production in Sichuan province, devastated by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in 2008, and a scientific collaboration that significantly accelerated the decoding of the potato genome, released last November.

In the 30-plus years that CIP and China have been working together, potato production in China has nearly doubled. New varieties from CIP, adapted to local needs and conditions, have helped to increase yields. For example, a CIP-developed potato variety called Tacna, introduced in the northern regions of China in 1994, provided yields more than 40% greater than those of the local variety thanks to its virus resistance and tolerance for heat, drought, and soil salinity. Renamed Jizhangshu 8, it is now been planted throughout China, with expectations of even greater increases in yields.
The collaboration around sweetpotato production has been equally significant. In the 1990s, CIP introduced a virus cleanup technology and training that boosted Chinese sweetpotato production by more than 30% on 1 million hectares. The increase formed the basis for the largest economic impact in CIP’s history; well over $550 million of increased production per year in Shandong and neighboring provinces of the country. In the past 30 years, CIP and its Chinese partners have conducted over 60 courses and workshops, training more than 2,000 Chinese scientists and technicians. Training topics have included the evaluation and utilization of germplasm, tissue culture, virus detection and virus-cleaning, seed potato and sweetpotato production, TPS (true potato seed) production, disease control, and processing technologies. Some 30 Masters-level and 10 Ph. D students have graduated with CIP support, many of them having become the leading scientists in potato or sweetpotato research in China. Over the years, CIP has also offered financial support to approximately 100 Chinese potato and sweetpotato scientists to participate in many different international conferences and workshops.

As important as its work in China, the CCCAP will also serve as a platform for research and development across Asia and the Pacific. This, too, builds on existing CIP research and projects in countries as diverse as Nepal, New Guinea, Mongolia, the Philippines, Vietnam, the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, and North Korea.

For more information,
please contact:
Valerie Gwinner
Head, Communications and Public Awareness Department
International Potato Center (CIP)
Tel: +1 202 468 7486

future, Potatoes