SPONSORED: Horizon SOPYRWA in a drive to improve potato yields through increased seed multiplication

Nsengiyumva Philbert, 54, is a resident of Kinigi sector in Musanze northern province was getting ready to head to his Irish potato garden in Kinigi Musanze disitrict where he has planted potatoes this time round not for food but for seed multiplication.
The Horizon SOPYRWA Greenhouse Project aims at contributing to the agro-economic development of Rwanda, increased potato seeds quality and sustainability, food safety and security,....
The Horizon SOPYRWA Greenhouse Project aims at contributing to the agro-economic development of Rwanda, increased potato seeds quality and sustainability, food safety and security,....

Nsengiyumva Philbert, 54, is a resident of Kinigi sector in Musanze northern province was   getting ready to head to his Irish potato garden in Kinigi Musanze disitrict where he has planted potatoes this time round not for food but for seed multiplication.

The father of eight started farming at an early age having followed his family tradition and has worked with Horizon SOPYRWA, Rwanda’s leading producer of refined Pyrethrum for so many years.

According to Nsengiyumva, his journey with Horizon Sopyrwa has been long and fruitful having started out drying pyrethrum, a natural botanical insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flower and ending up as a president of Abakundibireti Cooperative, a position he has held for the last four years.

“In our cooperative, Abakundibireti started 1n 2007 and comprises of over 46,000 members who are basically pyrethrum farmers and that is why for a long time we have worked closely with Horizon SOPYRWA. However because we do crop rotation, we grow potatoes and other crops a year to improve the soils. So that’s why Horizon SOPYRWA gave us improved potato seeds in order to tackle the issues of potato shortages and poor yields” says Nsengiyumva.

Since 2014, farmers in Musanze District have been advised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to get involved in multiplication of quality Irish potato seeds that have been scarce in the region, raising concerns among farmers.

“Previously, we were getting seeds from different sources and some farmers were just using old seeds left over from previous seasons which would not give enough yields.  This time round, since last year   things have changed now that Horizon SOPYRWA has identified and given a new quality of potato seeds to many farmers that are now into seed multiplication.

Nsengiyumva says that farmers that got the seedlings have shown the willingness to multiply seeds but raised concerns that the seeds to be multiplied are not yet enough compared to the demand.

This time of year, we know that we have to be ready to work extra hours in spite of the fact that we shall not be selling what we are growing for food.  Many farmers now know the need to have quality seedlings and if multiplied, we shall be able to yield at least  25 tonnes per hectare each season from the current 5 tonnes” says Nsengiyumva.

Potatoes are susceptible to a variety of diseases that lower yields and tuber quality. What’s more, pathogens accumulate in successive clonings of tubers and in the soil used to grow them. That is why sustainable potato production depends on a constantly renewed supply of disease-free planting material.

According to Umwali Juliet the coordinator of the Green House Project at Horizon SOPYRWA, partnered with Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) to avail new improved potato seeds to farmers which are of high quality and disease free for better yields.

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In September 2016 Horizon SOPYRWA started the construction of a high technology greenhouse to produce cuttings, mini-tubers and pre-basic good quality of potato seeds. The construction was completed in March, 2017 and the first production started in April, 2017.

The Greenhouse Project aims at contributing to the agro-economic development of Rwanda, increased potato seeds quality and sustainability, food safety and security, rural development and quality and resilient seeds.

Umwali says the company decided to get involved in the growing of Irish potatoes to match with the demographic explosion in Rwanda and increase the quality and quantity of food products.

“Towards the end 2016, Horizon SOPYRWA introduced in Rwanda a new and safe technology to multiply potato seeds under a “high tech greenhouse” as one of ways to achieve food security and rapid multiplication to solve the scarce potato seeds problem. Our Greenhouse has a capacity of producing 1,200,000 of seedlings/cuttings per quarter “says Umwali.

Production of disease free tubers

First, viruses and other pathogens are eliminated by growing potato plants in a controlled environment at high temperature. The disease-free shoot tips of the plants are then placed on a standard nutrient medium in glass containers (in vitro) in a completely sterile laboratory environment. The tips develop into plantlets that are then transferred to either a greenhouse or a field, where they grow at the same rate as normal potato plants but produce smaller tubers (called “mini-tubers”).

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According to Umwali, in order to have the required quality seeds for planting, the seedlings and plantlets in the green house adhere to the highest environmental and cleanliness standards

After harvesting, minitubers need to be stored at low temperature. Minitubers sprouting period is between 2 to 4 months according to variety.Once planted, they go on to produce normal-size, disease-free seed tubers ready for delivery to farmers. (While growing, the plants need to be protected from insect pests to avoid new disease infections.)

“The soil in which the mother plants are grown undergoes a thorough sterilization process before they are carefully put into tubes made locally from recycled plastic. This ensures the soil is 100% neutral.  In addition, any disease-carrying agents or pests such as aphids are caught by biological or physical traps to make sure the plantlets are non toxic and disease-free. Natural pyrethrum, also produced by Horizon Sopyrwa, plays a big role to the same effect” explains Umwali

Before deciding to give these new Irish potato seeds to farmers, Horizon SOPYRWA carried out a research and discovered that the cuttings from the green house produce around 15 to 20Mtons/Ha of mini-tubers while normal plantlets used to produce 2.5Mt/Ha.

After the research, Horizon SOPYRWA established plots to demonstrate the performance of these improved potato seed/seedlings.

“In addition to that, we work with potato seed multipliers and potato farmers. We also want farmers who work with RAB to become seed multipliers too. After the seeds come from the green house, Horizon SOPYRWA provides them to willing farmers to multiply, and sell the certified seeds to other farmers to cultivate” she adds.

Interested farmers are given opportunities to participate in workshops and trainings on good agricultural practices and the technology at hand for them to grasp the greenhouse project and its products.

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Seed distribution

Horizon SOPYRWA has a 5 year projection plan to build other greenhouses after succeeding this pilot Greenhouse and expanding its distribution channels to ensure that these quality seedlings and seeds reach other provinces. 

The projection for years 2018 and 2022) is the following:

Years

Plantlets

Cuttings

Mini-tubers

2018

120,000

2,400,000

960,000

2022

200,000

4,000,000

1,600,000

 

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According to Keith Kamoso in charge of Communication Sales and Marketing at the Green House, both seedlings and seeds are produced at an affordable price and discount is considered.

“Since these seedlings are produced in a greenhouse; they are available throughout each growing seasons in Rwanda. Also through cooperatives, farmers can negotiate special privileges especially terms of payment and other necessity inducements. Farmers are also given opportunities to participate in workshops and training on good agricultural practices and the technology at hand for them to grasp the greenhouse project” explains Kamoso.

Currently, Horizon SOPYRWA is working with pyrethrum farmers/cooperatives and a minor number of independent farmers from northern and western provinces to multiply potato seeds. However, it is still a small number to achieve bigger targets. 

“We are continuing to sensitize farmers about our product in different areas throughout the country in order to get more seed multipliers to work with us and then consequently to meet our demand. Horizon SOPYRWA will expand the distribution of seeds through well-designed channels to ensure that these quality seedlings and seeds reach other provinces” says Kamoso.

Requirements for one to be accepted and certified as a seeds multiplier are set  by RAB to ensure that Seeds Multipliers comply with the set standards.

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