Kenyan scientists develop potato varieties resistant to deadly pests

By Agencies

Scientists in Kenya have developed potato varieties that are resistant to cyst nematodes in what promises to change the fortunes of the crop in the country and across Africa.

The potato cyst nematodes (PCN) are tiny worm-like pests that feed on the roots of the plant as well as tomatoes and eggplants, causing serious damage that denies hundreds of farmers across the continent harvest.

The scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in a statement on Tuesday said besides resistance to PCN, the new varieties are early-maturing.

“We have come up with varieties that are early-maturing and have a short dormancy, which are key characteristics of most popular variety currently being grown by farmers, as well as being high-yielding compared to the current local varieties,” said Danny Coyne, a professor of soil at IITA.

Solveig Haukeland, a nematologist at ICIPE, said identifying a new variety, which is resistant to PCN, early maturing and gives a good yield, is highly regarded on the market and will change the fortunes of potato farmers in the continent.

George Ngundo, a plant health inspector at Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service termed the introduction of the new PCN resistant varieties a welcome development toward fighting the scourge that visits potato farmers.

“These varieties are the first of their kind in Kenya as the country does not have PCN resistant varieties within the seed system,” he said.