By George Munene
Kenya’s potato seed production stands at just 6,700 tonnes against a yearly demand of 30,000 tonnes, making most farmers opt to recycle the previous year’s harvest as seed. In an effort to avail more certified potato seeds to farmers, the National Potato Council of Kenya is increasing potato multiplication centers across the country.
These will include centers in Nairobi, Nakuru and Meru offering popular seed varieties such as Shangi, Unica, Wanjiku, Markies among others.
“From an acre of farmland applying the right agronomic practices, certified seeds should harvest a minimum of eighty 50kg bags and can yield up to 200 bags,” says Enoch Rugut an extension officer at Egerton University’s potato multiplication center.
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Kenya’s current production of only seven tonnes per hectare however barely scratches the surface of the country’s yield potential of 40 tonnes. The biggest culprit for this—reliance on farmer to farmer disseminated seeds which have a low yielding potential and are carriers of potato pests and diseases.
Rugut explains that using seeds disseminated between farmers as planting material you are more likely to harvest 50 bags and will be more than lucky to get 80 bags from your shamba.
Certified seeds are free of common potato diseases that are soil-borne such as bacterial wilt and those spread by seeds like soft rot.
To get peak yields, Enoch explains, a farmer needs to start off by sourcing for the right seeds. The highest classed seeds are referred to as breeders or generation 0; these achieve up to 90 per cent of ideal yields but their cost is exorbitant for most farmers. “We mostly multiply Certified 1(C1) seeds as they are both high yielding (60-50 per cent) and are still affordable for most farmers,” he says. Their price ranges from Sh54-80 per kilogram of seed.
Farmers also need a timetable starting from planting, to earthing up—covering potatoes up to a foot high done after three weeks, side-dressing with fertilizer, and second earthing up done three weeks after the first.
The per-acre cost of production should average Sh80,00 for farmers and Sh150,000 for seed producers.
Farmers wishing to become seed producers need to have their farms and seed source checked and licensed to be free of pests and diseases then pay a Sh100,000 certification fee.
Egerton’s Climate and Water Smart Agriculture Centre is currently selling the Unica potato to farmers and is growing Wanjiku and Shangi varieties. Farmers looking to get the proper planting and management practices to employ to get the most output from their farms can also get free training from the Njoro based center.
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Seed producing companies: Egerton University (Nakuru-Njoro)-0742934636
Agrico EA (Nakuru-Kabarak)-0742844207
Kisima farm (Meru Timau)-0716968766
GTIL (Nairobi-Lower Kabete)-0722760373
National Potato Council of Kenya:0799739578