Advancing research on new potato varieties in Central Asia and the Caucasus

Date: 17.10.2015.

Cooking quality contest of CIP-bred potato clones at Scientific Research Institute of Vegetable-Melon and Potato Crops. Photo by Dr. Rusudan Mdivani.

After wheat and rice, potato is considered to be one of the most important agricultural food crops in terms of its properties and nutritional values. Widely thought as the 'second bread' in many countries worldwide, it is also one of the highest research priority commodities for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). To this end, member of the CGIAR consortium the International Potato Centre (CIP) specializes in potato research and related activities on potato, sweet potato, other root and tuber crops. Creating partnerships for access to the most advanced technologies and research methods, facilitating consultation and knowledge sharing globally, CIP projects develop advanced potato clones – the raw material for new prospective potato varieties – to be tested in different regions of the world for growth and climatic suitability, taking into account environmental, food and economic issues pertinent to a specific region.

Accordingly, the Regional Central Asia program of CIP, operating under the Regional Program for Sustainable Agricultural Development in Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC), have established a demand-driven joint work with national agricultural research systems and farmers. During the last three years, the project "Improvement of potato varieties and rational use of water technologies to improve water use efficiency, flexibility, cost effectiveness and productivity of smallholder farmers in stress-tolerant environments of Central Asia", with the financial support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ), has carried out testing of 43 promising clones of potatoes on daylight-neutrality, stress-tolerance and productivity, as well as suitability for second season cultivation, all under the soil and climate conditions of Central Asia.

Evaluation trials were conducted under in-vitro laboratories and in open field in highland and lowland conditions in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. They were arranged in both highland and lowland conditions in order to obtain comprehensive results for analysis and identification of prospective clones, considering that seed potato produced in highlands ought to preserve advantages of new clones, while main seed potato users are table/ware potato producers who operate in lowlands. Thus, the CIP clones recommended to the State Variety Testing Commission were tested through multi-location trials under different agro-climatic conditions.

Evaluation trials in Uzbekistan were carried in Pskem (highland) and Zangi-ota near Tashkent (lowland). Based on Memorandum of Understanding between CIP, Tashkent State Agrarian University and Scientific Research Institute of Vegetable-Melon and Potato Crops, the latter hosted further scientific study in 2015. Following the field trials, on October 12, 2015, the Institute also organized a cooking quality contest of the potato clones from highland of Pskem. The event was attended by 38 participants, including the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Recourses of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Tashkent State Agrarian University (TSAU), Uzbek Scientific-Production Center, the Farmer’s Council of Uzbekistan, and the Regional offices of ICARDA, AVRDC, CACAARI, and CIP represented by Science Leader in Genetics, Genomics and Crop Improvement Dr. Meridet Bonierbale and Head of Central Asia Office Dr. Rusudan Mdivani.

Through preliminary evaluation of score sheets filled by the participants, the cooking quality contest revealed 3 clones out of 10, especially the clone #302476.108, to be the best fit based on such criteria as "appearance", "texture", "off-flavour", "sloughing" and "discoloration". In addition to conducting the contest, participants also attended a presentation seminar on field works in Pskem and Tashkent, and visited the field trials station at the Institute. With scientific research continuing, results for the potato clones from lowlands (Zangi-ota, Tashkent) will be released in late November.

Having established close research collaboration with other Central Asian countries and the Caucasus, CIP-bred potato clones tested in Uzbekistan were also tested in Georgia during 2012-2015, i.e. altogether 17 clones in different regions of Georgia, highlands and lowlands. Field tests were carried out by farmers, with 9 clones out of 17 demonstrating successful results. Speaking of new varieties released by the State Variety Testing Commissions in CAC countries, it should be noted that since 2003 successful research and development initiatives resulted in total of 9 new local varieties created in the region, out of which 8 were State Registered: in 2009 in Uzbekistan (‘Sarnav’, ‘Serhosil’ and ‘Pskom’), in 2010 in Kazakhstan (‘Miras’, ‘Alyans’ and ‘Ushqonyr’), and in 2013 in Tajikistan (‘Fayzobod’ and ‘Dusti’).

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