University Outreach Project Teaching Tissue Culture to Potato Farmers


World Food Day is celebrated on October 16, 2022, with the theme Leave NO ONE behind. During this week IPS will look at features that showcase better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.

Richard Mbaria makes a point at his potato in Kapsita village of Nakuru County, Kenya. The farmer has increased his production per acre thanks to training by a CARP+ project implemented in the area by Egerton University. Credit: Maina Waruru/IPS

Nairobi, Oct 11 2022 (IPS) – Until a few years ago, Kenyan potato farmer Richard Mbaria used to harvest just four tonnes of the crop from an acre of land thanks to poor quality seeds, combined with an attack on the crop by pests and diseases.

The middle-aged farmer would select seeds from his previous harvest, picking the smallest tubers that could not fetch good prices in the market. This was the practice every other smallholder farmer in his Kapsita village in Elburgon, Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley region and beyond would do too. The reason is that many rarely afford certified seeds, and those who could were unaware of the importance of using approved seeds.

“That was then and today, but today I get an average of nearly 8 tonnes of the produce from an acre of land and want to improve the harvests to 10 to 12 tonnes from the same land in the near future,” Mbaria proudly discloses.

The father of four did not transform his farming miraculously. He has been trained in better management of crops and also on the selection and preservation of healthy planting seeds, which he is now selling to local farmers.

Even more radical transformation has happened to his farming. He’s now on the journey to becoming qualified to produce certified tissue culture planting material, thanks to the training he has received from Egerton University’s Enhancing Access to High Quality Seed Potato for Improved Productivity and Income of Smallholder Farmers in Nakuru County (HQSPIPI), implemented under the Community Action Research Programme (CARP+).

Tissue culture is the cultivation of plant tissues or organs in specially formulated nutrient solution in a lab or a controlled environment using mainly sprouts or tissue-like leaves, which are grown in a medium with nutrients and disease-killing chemicals. This way, an entire plant is regenerated from a single tissue.

This is done in a controlled environment – usually in a lab or a greenhouse to produce plantlets, also known as apical root cuttings and mini tubers (tiny-sized potato seeds), but which are clean and free of disease, explains Professor Anthony Kibe, Associate Professor of Agronomy at Egerton University. Read more here.

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