The Genetically Modified (GM) Potato project ongoing in Nigeria has finished its first-year multi-locational confined trial in three locations with the Biotech potatoes showing a significant yield advantage over conventional varieties planted in the country.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Communication Officer (West and Central Africa) AATF, Alex Abutu, which was made available to newsmen on Wednesday in Kaduna.
According to Abutu, preliminary results from the three locations, namely Kuru and Bokkos in Plateau and Kusuku in Taraba showed that the biotech potatoes had a uniform yield advantage of over 300 per cent.
This was when compared to the best-performing variety in the country when no fungicide was applied.
He then noted that the trials were under the Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership (GBPP), a five-year project, coordinated by Michigan State University.
It focuses on the commercialization of late blight disease-resistant potatoes in farmer-preferred varieties in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, and Nigeria.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and the International Centre for Potatoes are other strategic partners in the project which is implemented in Nigeria by the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike.
Meanwhile, in his own remarks, Dr Charles Amadi, GBPP Principal Investigator said that he was excited by the promising results of the research.
He stated that the research showed clearly that biotech potatoes can contribute significantly to the mitigation of devastation caused by recurrent outbreaks of late blight in the potato-growing areas of Nigeria.
Amadi added that this would help increase yields and secure farmers’ investments and the livelihoods of stakeholders in the potato value chain.
Dr Shuaibu Kahya, the GBPP Trial Manager said, “Late blight is the most destructive of all potato diseases. It affects both potato foliage in the field and tuber in the storage which can destroy a crop, leading to a 100 percent loss. In Nigeria.
“Potato is grown predominantly in Jos, Plateau, Obudu in Cross River, and Mambila Plateau, Taraba ” during the rainy season.
According to him, potato farmers in these areas have suffered from late blight disease in their fields for more than 30 years.
Kahya said, “In 2021/22, NRCRI scientists evaluated a late blight resistance potato known as biotech potato (these biotech lines have 3R gene from potato wild relatives).
“The modified potatoes were planted along with non-biotech potatoes as control, at the confined field trial at Kuru and Bokkos in Plateau and Kusuku and Mambila plateau in Taraba.
“In the first year multi locational confined field trial, 80-100 per cent of the control non-biotech potatoes died of late blight diseases.
“But the biotech potato performed well, with 100 per cent of the modified plants showing no late blight symptoms on the foliage,” he submitted.