Uzbekistan on course for more seed potato production

Date: 25.01.2013.

CIP-bred potato clone, registered in Uzbekistan as Sarnav, in field trials. Photo by Durbek Khalikov.

Potato is one of the staple foods in Uzbekistan. According to the national research organization sources, around 111,000 ha of agricultural land is currently used for potato cultivation (up from 65,000 in 2010), and it is expected to increase. But many farmers rely on seed potato imports as 95% of the cultivated varieties are of western origin. This has a negative effect on production costs. A calculation is simply made: to grow one hectare of potato 3.5 tons of seeds are needed, which, at the current price of $US 2,000 a ton reaches a total cost of $US 7,000 including transport at planting time. To at least partially meet the growing demand, an effective seed potato production system would need to be developed. Uzbekistan's annual need for quality seed potatoes is at least 110,000 tons according to some estimates.            

Efforts are under way to deal with this challenge. National research organizations and the International Potato Center (CIP) have been working together to this end since 2005. In cooperation with the National University of Uzbekistan, CIP has been carrying out extensive research on seed potato production. A biotechnology laboratory, set up with CIP's support, is successfully operating to propagate disease-free in-vitro potato plants for experiments. It is also home to a collection of advanced CIP potato clones. The laboratory can produce up to 100,000 in-vitro plantlets a year. Furthermore, three aphid-proof screenhouses for in-vitro plant adaptation and minituber production of CIP-bred potato clones have been built on the premises of the National University of Uzbekistan. They provide the necessary help in conducting experiments. Knowledge gained in the laboratory and screenhouses is further applied in the field. A cultivation system for potato seed production was successfully tested at an altitude of 2,600 m in Tashkent Region using potato minitubers produced in the screenhouses. The outcome of this work was that three advanced CIP-bred clones out of 80 were selected and released in Uzbekistan in 2010 and 2011. Most importantly, they are better adapted to long days and abiotic and biotic stresses. They also have more dry matter and are more marketable than other material.            

These positive results have received government attention and support. Last year, the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan also joined the collaborative efforts on seed potato production by the National University of Uzbekistan and CIP. The government of Uzbekistan has already allocated considerable funds for this work. There are plans to expand the laboratory and increase its capacity to 1.5 million disease-free in-vitro plants and potato microtubers a year. Also, an area of ​​1.5 ha will be allocated for the construction of a complex of screenhouses for minituber production, storage of seed potatoes, and other research activities. Some ​​200 hectares in the highlands at an altitude of over 1,800 m will be allocated for use in experiments and high-quality seed production. As part of joint cooperation, in 2013 there are plans to grow 270,000 plants from 46 in-vitro clones and several thousand genotypes issued from true seeds. All of these will be planted in Jizzakh Region at an altitude of 2,600 m to develop new promising clones. CIP also plans to give its national partners technology for detecting seed and soil-borne diseases and PSTV (potato spindle tuber viroid) to study their incidence in different regions. This research will help to identify the most suitable strategy for seed potato production. CIP is also sharing its experience with the development of dynamic seed potato production enterprises, which are considered to be a very effective channel leading to expected results. There are examples from many countries demonstrating that the dynamic private seed sector can take care of the management of the operations at any stage and be profitable. The recommendations formulated by CIP include the need to adopt proper seed legislation and a certification system consistent with international standards before starting seed potato production activities on a large scale. The endemic presence of a serious disease like PSTV, which is currently not considered in the local list of quarantine diseases, will make the production of good quality seeds risky.

The continued collaborative work with the national research organizations and other stakeholders, in particular with the emerging and dynamic private sector, will contribute to meeting the growing demand for seed potatoes in Uzbekistan. What is most important, farmers will have more access to considerably cheaper seed potatoes, which are well adapted to the local climatic conditions and of high quality.

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