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Latest propagation system to strengthen potato seed in Kenya

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

International Potato Centre has partnered with Genetic Technologies International Limited (GTIL) and Stockman Rozen Kenya (SRK), two professional nurseries with tissue culture facilities to produce potato root cuttings and minitubers.

A cutting is similar to a nursery-grown seedling, except that it is produced through vegetative means, not originating from a seed. They are produced from tissue culture plantlets in the screen house rather than minitubers and after rooting, are planted in the field to produce the first generation of field grown seed tubers.

“Rooted cuttings is a new technology for Kenya and I would urge potato farmers to embrace this technology because seed tubers produced from cuttings are high quality planting material and can be multiplied for a further few seasons without risk of significant seed degeneration,” said Elmar Schulte-Geldermann, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a potato science leader.

He reveals that quality is guaranteed and is equivalent to certified seeds in seed certification systems, and will produce high-yielding crops because each cutting produces seven to 10 and up to 15-plus tubers, which are multiplied for either one or two more seasons, then harvested and sold as seeds.

The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), regulating seed certification, has endorsed cuttings and is integrating the technology into seed potato certification protocol, currently being finalised.

Once the modified protocol is approved by Kephis, cuttings will be eligible for seed merchants to use as starter material to produce certified seed.

According to Simon Ndirangu who works at SRK at present, we have in-vitro plants of the following varieties readily available for cuttings production: Dutch Robjyn, Unica, Konjo, Sherekea, Kenya Mpya, Asante and Desiree. “Soon we will be introducing Shangi, Lenana, Nyota, Chulu and Wanjiku varieties”, reveals Simon.

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