Victoria is a popular local potato variety in Uganda. Farmers love it because it is high yielding. However, Victoria is also extremely susceptible to potato Late Blight (LB) disease. With each growing season, these farmers face a threat of 60 to 100 percent yield losses due to LB. Climate related risks have worsened the situation leading to increasingly food insecure households.
However, all is not lost.
Watch video: Towards a late blight resistant potato for Africa
Researchers from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Uganda, working closely with the International Potato Center (CIP), are about to complete multi-location field trials and laboratory analyses of an improved transgenic Victoria potato. These trials are part of a comprehensive risk assessment of the improved potato, to get it approved by Uganda’s National Biosafety Committee.
For smallholder farmers such as Herbert Nkuba, production of potatoes is challenging due to intense spraying of their crops with fungicides. On average, resource poor farmers in Uganda spend up to USD 417 on fungicides per season per acre of potatoes.
“Women have gone out of production of potatoes because it is expensive and laborious” notes Dr. Barbara Zawedde from the Uganda Biosciences Information Center.
Field trials of the improved Victoria variety have shown complete resistance to LB disease without use of fungicides. These trials are being conducted at the Kachwekano Zonal Agriculture Research Institute (KAZARDI), one of NARO’s field sites in Uganda. In 2016, farmers joined other stakeholders for a visit to the site to assess performance of the new potato against the local Victoria. Many were excited at the prospect of a LB resistant Victoria.
Read more about the stakeholder visit: NARO Institute develops new Irish Potato variety to curb Late Blight
With trials on this potato almost complete, how soon farmers can access them depends on approval from government biosafety regulatory authorities in Uganda. This research has been supported by the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) and the 2Blades Foundation.
Blog by Vivian Atakos, Regional Communication Specialist - CIP sub-Saharan Africa