By YVONNE HAIP
WESTERN Highlands potato farmers will soon be enjoying bumper harvests following the National Agricultural Research Institute’s (NARI) introduction of late blight-resistant varieties.
Farmers, whose crops were badly affected by late blight, have decided to plant the new potato variety.
These varieties were identified by NARI, in Tambul, to benefit farmers in the Highlands region.
They have also selected areas for trials throughout the Highlands region.
The initial trial was reviewed in Ganga village, located just outside Mt Hagen city, during a field day.
These new potato varieties will replace the existing sequoia variety, which had been affected by late blight, and can only be grown and cultivated using certain insecticides and continuous attention.
Late blight was first detected in 2003 when crops shrivelled after flowering, causing it to die before maturity.
NARI agronomist Anthony Keru said a total of 59 varieties had been brought in from the International Potato Centre in Peru, South America.
“Of these, the NARI office based in Tambul tested and proved that only eight species were able to grow well without the late blight affecting them.
“As a result, four of these species named E4, E5, E9 and E11 were selected for the farmers for trial cultivation.
“The other four species had been tested and, after we have completed propagating the seedlings, they will be distributed to other farmers for trial cultivation,” he said.
Potato late blight management project leader David Minemba said the new varieties would enable farmers to plant potatoes without spending large amounts of money.
“The sequoia species demanded money and time, and only those who could afford it were able to cultivate it. These new varieties have proven to be safe from the late blight and could be grown under normal conditions as in the past,” he said.
Farmers have expressed interest in cultivating the new varieties.
The seedlings are being sold for K75 per 25kg.
More information can be obtained from the NARI office.