Potato farmers in Nyandarua County are betting on new varieties with higher yields to boost their incomes.
In an initiative by the Embassy of Ireland and Nyandarua County Government dubbed ‘Potato Sector Capacity Building Project’ farmers will from this month receive three varieties imported from Ireland.
The high performing and early bulking potato varieties are expected to double farmers’ yields.
The three, Fandango, Tornado and Imagine varieties planting materials are already in the country and under propagation at a farm in Timau, under the supervision of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Kelvin Food Industries Kenya Limited, among other players in the potato industry.
The varieties were imported not as tubers, but as so-called "High-Status Material" which are good for multiplication without importing diseases through the seeds and also to meet the high standards set by Kephis.
Speaking at Shamata Ward in Ndaragwa Constituency during the graduation of farmers trained under Potato Value Chain Capacity Building Programme, project director at International Fertiliser Development Centre Patrick Boro said, the varieties developed in Ireland developed are short-season types.
“They are short-season varieties that will be in the market within 90 days making them a better choice for farmers who want to have three seasons annually.
They also have a short dormancy period,” said Mr Boro. Nyandarua County agriculture executive Dr James Karitu said the varieties’ seed importation is aimed at increasing farmer access to best quality seed and certified planting materials.
“The imported Irish varieties are high yielding varieties. They will perform better than the local varieties we have; first of all because of the research that has been done over many years shows that those varieties have been able to do very well in climatic regions in Ireland that is similar to conditions in Kenya,” said Dr Karitu. The seeds will be introduced to 3,000 small-holder farmers for seed multiplication, under restricted trials conforming to Kephis requirements before the programme is extended to other potato growing counties.
“Some of the varieties we have in Kenya have been grown over a very long period of time and have degenerated to a big extent because of cross-breeding or other factors caused by farming systems,” said Mr Boro. He said average production per hectare will range from season to season, but with a capacity to produce 120 tonnes per hectare.