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Seed Potato Quality Improvement through Positive Selection by Smallholder Farmers in Kenya

Gildemacher, Peter R., Schulte-Geldermann, Elmar, Borus, Dinah, Demo, Paul, Kinyae, Peter, Mundia, Pauline, Struik, Paul C.
Potato research 2011 v.54 no.3 pp. 253-266
crop yield, disease and pest management, farmers, markets, on-farm research, potatoes, production costs, risk, seed quality, seed tubers, seeds, Kenya
In Kenya, seed potato quality is often a major yield constraint in potato production as smallholder farmers use farm-saved seed without proper management of seed-borne pests and diseases. Farm-saved seed is therefore often highly degenerated. We carried out on-farm research to assess whether farmer-managed positive seed selection could improve yield. Positive selection gave an average yield increase in farmer-managed trials of 34%, corresponding to a 284-<euro> increase in profit per hectare at an additional production cost of only 6 <euro>/ha. Positive selection can be an important alternative and complementary technology to regular seed replacement, especially in the context of imperfect rural economies characterized by high risks of production and insecure markets. It does not require cash investments and is thus accessible for all potato producers. It can also be applied where access to high-quality seed is not guaranteed. The technology is also suitable for landraces and not recognized cultivars that cannot be multiplied formally. Finally, the technology fits seamlessly within the seed systems of Sub-Saharan Africa, which are dominated by self-supply and neighbour supply of seed potatoes.