24 December 2021, Malawi: Five climate and disease resilient potato varieties developed by the James Hutton Institute-led Quikgro research project have been approved for release in Malawi by the Agriculture Technology Release Committee of the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. It’s hoped that the new varieties will contribute to economic growth and prosperity along the whole potato supply chain in the region.
The new varieties, named Chikoka, Chitute, Khutula, Phindu and Tinyadile, are high yielding with properties favoured by consumers, including short cooking time, tuber size and shape, texture and flavour and flesh colour. Some are suitable for crisp making, whilst others are suitable for boiling or chips. All are heat and disease resilient, making them suited to production in non-traditional potato growing areas, thus increasing the area under production.
The cultivars are early maturing, providing much-needed food before the maize harvest, and are tolerant to late blight, virus and bacterial wilt, avoiding the need to apply agri-chemicals and maintaining tuber quality.
Professor Lesley Torrance, Director of Science at the James Hutton Institute, explained that in Malawi, potato is grown in highland regions because potato tubers do not form at the warmer temperatures found in other areas, leading to deforestation and high prices due to increasing consumer demand.
“The research team investigated potato genotypes previously identified as having different combinations of desirable traits, such as early maturing, short dormancy and disease resistance or tolerance. The objective was to identify genotypes with a combination of traits that could be grown in non-traditional potato growing areas and that were resilient to heat and disease pressures. Maturing in 70 to 80 days, these genotypes can be grown in rotations, which will help control soil-borne disease, and low dormancy means farmers can get three to four crops per year.
“The genotypes were grown in the field in different environments over a number of growing seasons, the lines were evaluated against currently grown varieties and a dossier of data was prepared and submitted to the Agriculture Technology Release Committee of Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, resulting in the new varieties receiving approval.
“We hope that Chikoka, Chitute, Khutula, Phindu and Tinyadile will contribute to economic prosperity and increased food security in Malawi and beyond, and are very grateful to our project partners and funders for their continued support. The next steps are to reach out to farmers and other stakeholders countrywide to inform them of the availability and benefits of growing the new varieties, to widen their impact and uptake.”
The Quikgro project partners in Malawi are the Department of Agriculture and Research Services of the Malawian government, the International Potato Centre, the University of St Andrews and the James Hutton Institute.