By Prossy Nandudu
Potato is another important staple food crop as well as a cash crop more especially for the highlands areas of Uganda. Potato contributes to both food security, poverty eradication and economic development in areas where it is grown.
According to Dr Alex Barekye, the head of Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KAZARDI), tasked with the development of potato varieties, potato is ranked as the eighth most important crop for food and nutritional security.
They contain protein, vitamins, zinc and iron. However, the potato productivity is rated low with current production according to UBOS estimating production at between 4.5- 7.5tones per hectare, yet the potential is greater than 30 tons per hectare using good agronomic practices and high yielding varieties.
To that effect, KAZARDI with support from the International Potato centre (CIP) decided to develop some varieties to respond to the challenge of increasing yield, resistance to pests and diseases but also for processing. Examples of these include Markies and Sagitta are currently being grown in Uganda.
He explained that the development of the new varieties started way back in 2015, and trials were conducted in major potato growing areas of Kisoro, Rubanda, Rwebitaba, and Buginyanya in eastern Uganda. From the trials, two promising clones were accepted by 94% and 92% of the evaluators.
Candidate varieties were later submitted to the National Variety Release Committee that sat in December 2022, leading to the release of NAROPOT 6 and NAROPOT5. Barekye adds that the two are the first t potato varieties to be bred and released by Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute.
Yields 36 tons per hectare, which is about 2.5 acres, matures within 90 days. It is a candidate for food in addition to processing into crisps and chips because its dry matter content is 24%
Yields 25 tons per hectare, matures within 100 days, good crisps and chips with a dry matter content of 21.6%.
The varieties according to researchers are resistant to late blight diseases among other attributes. To access the seed, farmers can now contact NARO.
However, for farmers to get the most out of the new varieties, they should observe important practices involved in potato production and management which include, field site selection, seed bed preparation, proper seed selection, planting, fertility management, and proper crop management, Barekye added.
New varieties to be considered in 2023
According to Dr Chris Omongo, the head of root crops programme at the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) there are three candidate cassava varieties for Industrial purposes, that have been submitted to the Variety release committee to be considered in 2023.
The varieties according to Omongo are tolerant to the cassava brown streak diseases, also good for flour when mixed with cereals like millet or sorghum.
The others are the two sweet potatoes varieties, with more nutritious, to supplement the existing Orange age fleshed. The new varieties, according to Omongo have been bred to provide quality purees for children, pancakes in addition to food security.