Nigerian Researchers Showcase Remarkable Success Of GM Potato Varieties

The director, tuber crop research department, National Root Crop Research Institute, Dr. Charles Amadi.
The director, tuber crop research department, National Root Crop Research Institute, Dr. Charles Amadi.

Celebration fills the halls of the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, as researchers announce groundbreaking 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, emphasising 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 revolutionised 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. However, the success of GM potato varieties offers a ray of hope for the country’s agriculture sector.

Potato production in Nigeria primarily relies on small-scale farms, with many farmers still using traditional tools. An estimated 300,000 households engage in potato farming, mainly in regions like Plateau State, which accounts for nearly half of the national potato yield. Other potato-producing areas include Obudu in Cross River and Mambilla in Taraba State, where production occurs in both the wet and dry seasons.

Addressing the constraints faced by potato farmers, the AATF communication officer for West and Central Africa, Alex Abutu emphasised the importance of research and development in overcoming these challenges. He highlighted the urgent need for improved farming methods, access to quality seeds, and enhanced pest control measures to optimize potato production in Nigeria.

As Nigerian researchers celebrate the success of GM potato varieties, they reaffirm their commitment to advancing agricultural innovation and improving food security in the country. With continued support and collaboration, they aim to empower farmers and transform the potato industry, paving the way for sustainable agricultural development in Nigeria.

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