NIGERIA – The National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, researchers have released successful results from their two-year study on genetically modified (GM) potato varieties.

Spearheaded by a plant breeder at NRCRI and lead scientist of the Global Biotechnology Potato Partnership (GBPP) in Nigeria, Dr. Charles Amadi, the research unveils the exceptional performance of these GM potatoes.

Amadi expressed excitement as he revealed that the biotech potatoes exhibited an astounding 300 per cent increase in yield compared to the best-performing conventional variety when no fungicide was applied.

This breakthrough brings hope to Nigerian potato farmers who have long grappled with threats like late blight infestation, driving some to the brink of despair.

Under the umbrella of the GBPP, a project funded by USAID and coordinated by Michigan State University (MSU), researchers collaborated with various partners, including the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and the International Potato Centre (CIP), to conduct the study.

The research sites spanned the potato-growing regions of Plateau and Taraba states, focusing on areas like Kuru near Jos, Bokkos in Plateau State, and Kusuku in Mambilla, Taraba State.

Amadi highlighted the resilience of the biotech potatoes against late blight attacks, emphasizing their significant yield advantage over non-transformed varieties.

These GM potatoes not only withstood the onslaught of pests and diseases but also outperformed their counterparts by a substantial margin.

“The introduction of resistance genes in biotech potatoes has revolutionized potato farming in Nigeria,” Amadi explained. “Farmers can now enjoy increased yields and reduced dependence on fungicides, leading to improved livelihoods and economic prosperity.”

Despite Nigeria’s status as the seventh-largest potato-producing country in Africa, challenges such as late blight disease, inadequate access to quality potato seeds, and poor farming practices have hindered productivity.

Addressing the constraints faced by potato farmers, the AATF communication officer for West and Central Africa, Alex Abutu, emphasized the importance of research and development in overcoming these challenges.

A global revolution

This news comes days after the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) pioneered high-yielding and disease-resistant potato varieties in Kenya.

KALRO, through its Principal Research Scientist and Director of the KALRO potato research center in Tigoni, Limuru, Moses Nyongesa, underscores the organization’s commitment to driving agricultural transformation.

Furthermore, in Tanzania, the collaboration between the Netherlands Embassy and local stakeholders has marked a significant milestone in promoting potato variety production through the launch of the potato variety registration guidelines book.

This move is hailed as a crucial step towards enhancing food security and prosperity in the country.

The step-by-step guidance provided in the book is poised to streamline the registration process, fostering the growth of the agricultural sector.

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