Flagship and Linked Products

The core and flagship of this SO are on the development of agile potato varieties (70–90 days) that will fit into the cereal-based systems of the subtropical and temperate lowlands, thus diversifying and intensifying cropping systems that are otherwise based on cereal monocropping and/or fallow. The secondary focus will be on medium and early-potato varieties grown in the highlands to enhance food security and to ensure a constant and regular supply of healthy seed to the lowlands systems. In the lowlands, agile potato varieties will compete with imported early seed varieties that are already available on the market. In Central Asia and the Caucuses, we estimate that 95% of the varieties grown are imported—many are early or mid-early (90–100 days). Resilient, competitive potato varieties can be incorporated into diverse cropping systems of subtropical lowland, highland, and temperate regions. New, early, and medium duration varieties resistant to abiotic (heat and drought) and biotic (virus, LB) stresses with specific postharvest use and management qualities will address current producers’ and market needs as well as food security for vulnerable households.

Flagship and Linked Products

Linked products

1. Accelerated breeding methods and tools

Advances in breeding technology will be used primarily to develop agile potato varieties for the cereal-based systems of the lowlands. Other cropping systems may benefit as well. Precision phenotyping for constraints such as virus diseases, heat and drought stresses, earliness, and day-neutrality will enable resilient and agile potato varieties to be developed. Standardized data collection and exchange will facilitate decision making. Genome-wide association studies will increase resolution on breeding value and accelerating gains for single and multiple traits.

2. Dynamic improved populations for variety selection and breeding

Researchers use breeding populations to identify important genes and elucidate genetic mechanisms relevant for the development of superior lines that are competitive in world markets. Commercial products can be derived either from immediate selection in breeding populations or by crossing them to existing, adapted varieties. Improved populations offer such benefits as genetic gains through recurrent selection, appropriate heterosis exploitation, and yield stability. They allow varieties to be developed that respond to changing needs— from disease resistance and stress tolerance to local preferences with value-added traits. Support populations can provide novel traits and new diversity for broadening the genetic base, or for incorporation into breeding programs, which enhances value to stakeholders and, ultimately, the consumer.

3. Options for demand expansion

Create awareness/advocate for change in diets and food habits to stimulate consumption and sales and assure farmers’ remunerative price for their potatoes. Options for effective and inclusive market chains will improve access to food and minimize food waste. Given increasing importation of processed potatoes from North America to Asia, evidence would suggest that there are both demand and potential to develop more indigenous processing varieties. Asia’s cyclical problem of overproduction can be eased by diversification in the use of potato. This strategy will sustain an increase in potato area and yields and can help to stabilize potato prices. Throughout Asia, potato is grown mainly for the fresh market, but the potential market for processed potatoes raises new prospects for income generation. Potato chips (crisps), French fries, and flakes are the products with the most potential for Asian markets. For all these products, potatoes should have high dry matter (> 20%), low reducing sugars (< 50 mg/100 g), low sucrose (< 150 mg/100 g), and low phenols (< 50 mg/100 g) of fresh weight in addition to the physical characteristics like shape and color for chipping. The processing sector in Asia is currently small—predominantly in India and China—with only approximately 6% of potatoes processed across the region.
PPP chains are required for contract farming and buy-back mechanisms to enhance processing of potatoes and assure income of farmers and buffer years of overproduction. An intense training program will upgrade farmers’ skills to raise them to the processing requirements through improved technology options that support agricultural diversification and strengthened rural institutions engaged in market value chains. In the pro-poor SO 2, 95% of the beneficiaries will be marginal and small farmers in the region. The availability of quality seed of processing varieties developed will enhance the processing of potatoes from today’s 5% to 10% in the next five years.
Value chain studies should commence with market analysis to assess demand to avoid overproduction in addition to investigating (1) the effects of promoting potato and local recipes as a nutritious food, (2) the opportunities for regional trade of seed and ware potatoes, and (3) whether the effects of introducing the agile potato on the increased amount of potatoes available on the local market would open research opportunities on postharvest and processing.

4. Fast track systems for effective variety identification and release

GIS and crop modeling will be applied to support decisions for variety testing and recommendation. The benefits of PVS approaches to accelerate the release and acceptance of new varieties by multiple stakeholders will produce evidence to influence the decision making of local and central authorities. Regional networking and data management will facilitate the exchange of information and material. Regional hubs with diagnostic capacities will receive material and distribute candidate varieties. Release authorities will be able to use data from other countries and participatory processes.

5. Strategies for ecological intensification of farming system with potato

Research on nutrient cycling, water harvest, sustainable soil, and pest management will contribute to resilient landscapes and increasing crop productivity. Technology development, education, and policy will engage in a systems approach to production and resource management. The dynamics of major biotic and abiotic constraints will be described and baselines quantified for future impact assessment. Standardized quantitative phenotyping of new varieties will enable the subsequent verification of improvements in sustainability of systems by mapping increased levels of resistance in adopted varieties.

6. Strategies for going to scale

SO 2 will continue to work and build the capacity of traditional longstanding national partners, NARS, farmers associations, and NGOs and create regional training hubs in India and Central Asia (and potentially Russia). However, this SO will go to scale only through formulation of more complex and wider reaching partnership structures that involve closer convergence with national government food security plans. In addition, increasing engagement with the private sector and R&D agencies in processing and seed production and ware supplies will be essential, both to drive demand and create supply in addition to strengthening value chains and public health promotion. More innovation will be required in mass and community media communication, given limited budgets to engage with traditional electronic media, such as television and radio, coupled with low penetration of the internet with targeted beneficiaries. Female farmers should be engaged at the outset both in project design and targeting, and the evaluation and dissemination if change at the HH level is to be both replicable and sustainable. Scale-up and -out can only be ensured by an adequate and improved supply of quality seed of the proposed new dual varieties and by promoting better on-farm practices.

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