Tuesday, 21 November 2017

 

 

The Department of Agriculture Research Services in Malawi (DARS) has started a laboratory cleaning exercise of sweet and Irish potato planting materials in order to avoid the developing viruses which affect the production, Malawi News Agency (Mana) has established. 

Research scientist responsible for potato breeding at Bvumbwe Research Station, Orbert Mwenye, told Mana the cleaning process is currently underway and that samples have since been sent to Kenya and Scotland to be cleaned.

“We have sent Irish potato samples to Scotland and those of sweet potatoes to Kenya for the cleaning to be done because currently, Malawi has no equipment required for the removal of the viruses,” Mwenye said.

He said once the Irish potato is affected by the virus, production can dwindle by up to 80% and even be worse for sweet potatoes whose production could lower with whole 100% once attacked by the virus. The research scientist, therefore, urged farmers to avoid using the affected potato planting materials. 

However, Mwenye observed that the potato viruses observed are not entirely new but that they recur as a result of the tendency of recycling planting materials through the traditional farming practice of sharing planting materials.

Mwenye said government will soon have its own thermotherapy growth chamber – the potato virus cleaning equipment as a way of enhancing and shortening the cleaning process and also cutting the costs.

“With support from the World Potato Centre and funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we have ordered the country’s own Thermotherapy Growth Chamber and that will mean no exportation of samples, translating into reduced time of the process as well as reducing costs,” Mwenye explained.

Currently, it takes a minimum of six months for the samples to get back to Malawi after being cleaned in various countries such as Mozambique, Kenya and Scotland.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Joseph Mwanamvekha disclosed that government would devise a formula of up-scaling research activities in all the country’s research stations to make the most out of the country’s researchers.

He said the country needs a vibrant team of researchers to enable it produce disease resistant and high-yielding crops such as the cleaned and improved potato varieties which would facilitate nutrition uptake, food diversification and economic growth. 

Related articles: 

Czech Potato Research Institute Cultivates Blue Potato Variety 

Major Processing Companies Team up for Research Project 

McCain Foods Develops Research Program for the Potato Industry



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