Government, in conjunction with Kutsaga Research Station has embarked on a potato seed multiplication programme from mini-tuber to commercial seed potato.
This programme will decapitate a critical shortage of the seed potato which has resulted in the country importing 60 percent of its requirement.
The research centre’s business development and marketing executive Mr Oswell Mharapara said they are multiplying seed potato, a move that is expected to ease shortages in the coming two years.
Zimbabwe has resorted to importing potato seed after a reduced production of seed from the Nyanga quarantine area.
“As you may be aware, the bulk of potato seed is being imported from South Africa. What we have done is that we have committed resources to research that will ensure that we start producing disease free material from our laboratory.
“We have started contracting seed potato farmers to start producing Generation 1 to Generation 3 from Generation 0 obtained from the laboratory.
“We started with farmers with experience in potato production and the necessary infrastructure on the ground. This effort is expected to ensure that we have disease free seed potato and will significantly reduce the country’s import bill,” said Mr Mharapara.
He also added that they were driven by the desire to reduce imported diseases in potatoes.
“By importing seed potato, we are also importing diseases. This is mainly because we are not aware of the generation of the seed potato we are buying. So we have started with authentic material which is cleaned before multiplication,” he said.
There are three important biological advantages to this process, said Dr Gerald Zvobgo, who is the molecular biologist at Kutsaga.
“The potato seed we are producing is virus free, there is no variation of genetics and above all, this is a fast process because you can get over 15 million plantlets from one seed.”
Agribank has bank-rolled the seed potato production programme. Farmers are provided with the Generation 0 material and field inputs to ensure that they do not fault in producing a quality product.
Most of the farmers are concentrated in the Mazowe area where good soils exist for potato production.
The engaged farmers have virgin land, adequate water, electricity and other necessary infrastructure.