Potato variety Mayan Gold successfully released in Kenya

29th Oct 2014

Researchers from the James Hutton Institute and Kenyan institutions have successfully introduced popular UK potato cultivar Mayan Gold to Kenya, in an effort to boost food security and strengthen potato production systems in the East African country.

Mayan Gold is a variety originally bred at the James Hutton Institute from a South American potato species called Solanum tuberosum L. group Phureja, and successfully commercialised in the UK by the company Greenvale AP, longstanding partners of Mylnefield Research Services Ltd, a commercial affiliate of the James Hutton Institute.

After a comprehensive study in which the potato variety was assessed by National Performance Trials, Mayan Gold has now been released in Kenya for national production by the Kenyan National Variety Release Committee. As the cultivar grows very well in the country and has many economically important properties required by small-holder farmers, this achievement tackles some of Kenya’s biggest issues in relation to potato crop failures.

Professor Lesley Torrance, Cell and Molecular Sciences group leader at the James Hutton Institute, worked with Kenyan based researchers Dr Hassan Were (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology), Dr J. Kabira (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) and Professor F. Olubayo (University of Nairobi), to develop possibilities for the introduction of new potato varieties into Kenyan production.

The project is supported by the Monsanto Fund, which aims to strengthen and improve farming communities around the world by funding research and offering solutions to some of the world’s biggest issues in farming. One of the stated aims of the initiative is to give Kenyan farmers access to disease-free tubers in hopes of increasing their yield and income potential.

Mayan Gold shows several beneficial attributes for Kenyan farmers, such as low dormancy, so it can be cropped twice a year; fast cooking time, thereby saving charcoal; resistance to diseases such as foliar late blight, potato virus Y and several tuber blemish diseases, bruising and splitting, for increased yields.

The cultivar is currently being propagated in Kenya for release to small-holder farmers, and at present there are three other potato varieties undergoing National Performance Trials (Record, Harborough Harvest and Pentland Dell) which are expected to be released by mid-2015.

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