In a groundbreaking development for the Nigerian agriculture sector, the ongoing Genetically Modified (GM) Potato Project has completed its first-year confined trials in three locations, namely Kuru and Bokkos in Plateau State and Kusuku in Taraba State. The results have been described as impressive, with Biotech potatoes displaying a significant yield advantage of over 300% when compared to conventional varieties without the application of fungicides.
Under the umbrella of the Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership (GBPP), a five-year initiative led by the Michigan State University, the project aims to commercialise late-blight disease-resistant potatoes in farmer-preferred varieties. Nigeria, along with Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Kenya, is a focus country for this innovative venture. Strategic partners in this project include; the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and the International Centre for Potatoes while the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) in Umudike is spearheading its
The GBPP Principal Investigator, Dr. Charles Amadi, expressed excitement over the promising results. According to him, the Biotech potatoes demonstrated the potential to significantly mitigate the impact of recurrent outbreaks of late blight, a devastating disease in Nigerian potato-growing regions. This breakthrough has the potential to, not only increase yields, but also safeguard investments and livelihoods of stakeholders in the potato value chain. Late blight is identified as the most destructive potato disease, affecting both foliage in the field and tubers in storage. Trials were conducted at Kuru and Bokkos in Plateau State and Kusuku in Taraba State and showcased the resilience of Biotech potatoes, which exhibited no late blight symptoms on foliage, unlike what was recorded in the the control group.
The harvested Biotech potato tubers displayed no discernible difference in size or shape compared to non-biotech potatoes, according to the reports. The benefits extend beyond yield gains, including a greater number of tubers, reduced production costs, lower environmental impact, and increased marketability. The Chairman of Potato Farmers, Genesis Johnson, expressed his amazement at the resistance of Biotech potatoes to pests and diseases, saying there is high potential for increased income and food production while the success of the Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership project marks a significant step forward in transforming potato farming in Nigeria.