Production of minitubers in screen house contribute to provision of sustainable disease free potato seed: ISSD Amhara Unit
Organizing farmers into Seed Producer Cooperative (SPC) is a key strategy to grow and market much needed quality/farmer preferred seed. Addis Alem SPC, established to produce and market potato seed in Amhara region since 2002 GC is a good example how SPCs can play key role in seed value chain development. The SPC is one of the 4 SPCs directly supported by ISSD Amhara unit, organized with the objective of production, packaging and marketing of improved/farmers preferred seeds in the region.
In Ethiopia, potato is regarded as a high potential crop owing to its ability to provide high yield per unit area with a short crop cycle. It is an important food security and hunger reliever crop by virtue of its ability to mature in advance to most other crops at the time of critical food shortage. However, in spite of the increasing demand, productivity of potato has always been low and declining over the years due to lack of quality disease free seed supply.
Majority of farmers use farm saved, disease susceptible potato seed obtained from local market or exchanged among farmers. In spite of seed regulations in the region, the systems have largely been operating under limited human capacity and facilities without quality control. Poor functioning seed systems, lack of commercial seed production systems, inability of the informal seed system to maintain seed quality and eliminate diseases are consistently ranked among the major constraints in potato production.
Recent years efforts to satisfy the increasing demand by different researches, the regional government, NGOs and other development actors focused on increasing the areas of production rather than increasing productivity through tackling the major productivity constraints – availability of disease free quality potato seed and limited access to suitable varieties. Traditionally, seed potato production systems in the country have the responsibility of research centers and seed producer cooperatives.
In collaboration with regional partners, the work of ISSD to improve the performance of potato value chain started with analysis to better understand the main constraints along the potato seed value chain. Based on the survey result, ISSD in collaboration with Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute (ARARI) supported Addis Alem SPC in production and supply of disease free quality potato mini tuber using screen house.
The production started by the construction of 15 m X 8m X 3m (Length, width and height) screen house and 15mx8mx5m Diffused Light Store (DLS) in the potato potential areas of South Gondar zone, Farta woreda, Awzet kebele. The standard screen house was built using mush wire, cement (for the floor), ground water, compost, sand and forest soil with close follow up, technical support and management. Initially the SPC planted 900 plantlets in 900 pots to produce disease free potato mini-tuber and produced 13000 G0 tubers (on average 14tubers per pot) of Belete variety. During the next round the SPC produced 6000 G1 mini tuber, which was planted on half hectares to produce 200qt G2 of quality disease free seed potato.
Despite the first doubt of the farmers and to their pleasant surprise, it was possible to get 14 tubers from a single plantlet. This has increased the demand or potato seed considerably within a short time.
Misgan Mulaw, “I was able to get enough G1 disease free tubers to produce and sell 64qt of disease free seed potato to the SPC. I earned 60,500.00 Ethiopian Birr.” Similarly Ato Misganaw Haile and Awoke Fantaw produced and supplied 37 and 36qt and earned 29,600.00 and 28,800.00Birr respectively.
Ato Marew Awoke effort is a good example on the level of acceptance of the technique by the surrounding farmers. “I built my own screen house using the technique provided. And with the supply of plantlets from ARARI I was able to produce 1160 G0 tubers, and from that 6.5qt G1 disease free seed potato tuber.”
The main factors that are contributing to ensuring the SPC’s capability to become a sustainable source of quality potato source seed to the area include the cooperative’s infrastructure (screen house, ground water, DLS), experiences how to manage the screen house and its good linkage with plantlets source. Their success is currently being scaled up by Mush SPC in North Shewa zone, Basona Worana Woreda with the support of ISSD Amhara unit. Furthermore, Following a visit to Addis Alem SPC, Bahir Dar University and Debretabor universities allocated budget for construction of the infrastructure (screen house, hand dag well, DLS). Guna union is being supported by Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) to build the necessary infrastructure to increase production and productivity of disease free potato mini tubers. ISSD Amhara unit supported by linking Guna union with various partners including plantlet supplier, the Woreda office of agriculture, quality regulatory authority and Adet agricultural research institute. The programme also provided technical support at different levels. In addition, GO and NGOs potato platform was established at regional level to provide coordinated support for potato producers in the value chain development.
April 2020 – By Wonzie Asmare Knowledge Sharing & communication Expert, ISSD Amhara Unit