Framer weeding his potato farm. The government has promised Meru farmers certified potato seeds to help them up thier yields. Photo: Joseph Kanyi, NMG.
The government will provide certified potato seeds to farmers in Meru County to help them up their yields as opposed to using seeds from informal sources which often accelerates the spread of seed-borne diseases further lowers production.
According to a 2014 study by Hussein Shimelis and Rob Melis for the University of KwaZulu-Natal on potato farming systems and production constrains in Kenya, lack of clean planting materials among farmers in Kenya forces farmers to plant seeds from local markets, neighbours a or farm-saved.
These seeds are of poor quality and always speed up the spread of seed-borne diseases such as bacterial wilt which can affect about 77 per cent of potato farms in the country.
Speaking at Marimba Farm in Imenti South Sub County of Meru County over the weekend, Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri expressed fears that the general uptake of certified potato seeds by farmers was still low despite efforts to encourage use of quality seeds.
He noted that government and private potato farming experts were willing to provide knowledge necessary for uplifting potato farming in all parts of the country.
“Only 18 percent of farmers in Meru County are using certified potato seeds which are wanting. If we can increase the number to 30 percent Kenya can attain food security which is one of the President’s Four Agendas and also get access to export markets,” said the CS.
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In Meru, potato is majorly grown in Abothuguchi, Kibirichia and Longisa areas which have 52, 42 and 37 farmers respectively. They grow red-skinned Asante potato variety after abandoning red-skinned Ngure and Kerr‘s Pink varieties.
According to Kiunjuri, there are 11 certified potato varieties on the market that farmers can adopt to realize maximum returns.
“Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) has 11 certified potato varieties with among them more than 5 recommended for potato processing. In the next 3 years all Kenyans shall be planting certified seeds,” said the CS.
Other government bodies in charge of producing clean seeds include Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO).
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Kiunjuri cautioned farmers against recycling propagation materials since it was counterproductive in the proceeding seasons.
“Some farmers use the same seed for 10 seasons which is a poor practice, In fact the same seed should not be used for more than 4 seasons for maximum production to prevail,” he advised.
He stated that government was ready to promote seed potato farming and had enough funds for the same adding that the ministry was committed to raising the quantity of certified seeds from 6,000 metric tons to 400,000 metric tons to help cut the high cost of seeds on the market.
He lauded the county residents for leading in potato farming societies worth benchmarking in the country.
“Take advantage of seed generation partners throughout the country,” said the CS appealing to county governments and private partners to donate land for research and propagation.
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He further castigated those in potato growing regions against consuming potatoes meant for seed.
“Engaging in potato seed production is a more lucrative venture. With a small acreage one can earn more unlike production of potatoes for food purposes,” posed Kiunjuri.
“Try it out. Kephis is ready to conduct soil testing to ascertain the best areas for potato seed production,” he added.