CIP-developed Potato Varieties Boost Food Security in Asia
A recent study of seven major Asian potato-producing countries determined that almost 3 million farming households on the continent grow varieties that were either bred directly by the International Potato Centre (CIP) or in the cooperation with national programs.
The study, published in 2018, assessed the adoption rates of 491 improved potato varieties released in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam between 1952 and 2015. Researchers determined that 210 of those varieties have been adopted by farmers and occupied 97% of the land dedicated to potato in those countries.
An estimated 15.3 million farming households in the seven countries grow potatoes on a total of 7.6 million hectares. Sixty-three CIP-related varieties are grown on 1.43 million hectares – 19% of the total land area dedicated to potato production – by 2.93 million farming families, primarily China. The researchers estimated that those varieties benefit a total of 10.2 million people.
The most popular varieties combine taste and cooking characteristics desired by farmers and consumers with traits for increasing disease-resistance and heat- and drought-tolerance. Those attributes save farmers money they would otherwise spend on agrochemicals or certified seed potatoes, contributing to improved incomes. Though researchers were unable to quantify the benefits provided by Asian farmers by the 63 varieties, a 2013 adoption assessment in Peru found that farmers who planted CIP-bred varieties harvested about 10% more potatoes per hectare than farmers who grew other improved varieties.
CIP-related varieties have been especially popular in Nepal, where 34% of the total land area dedicated to potato production was planted with them in 2015. However, they had a much bigger impact in China, the world’s top potato producer. The Center has been active in China since 1978 when it sent a potato clone to Chinese scientists called CIP24, which subsequently became one of the country’s most popular varieties.
Chinese farmers now grow 35 varieties that are the results of CIP-China cooperation, which together cover about 25% of the country’s potato farmland. They include three of China’s 10 most cultivated potato varieties. An economic surplus analysis of the impact of one such variety.
The Center’s potato agri-food systems program is working with government and private sector partners in Asia to extend such benefits to more people through the development and dissemination of productive, nutritious and climate-smart potato varieties. The releases of heat-tolerant and virus-resistant potato varieties Kufri-Lima in India and KT-1 in Vietnam are recent results of long-term efforts to breed resilient and productive potatoes that can improve food security and incomes of the region’s smallholder families.