Chapter 6. Potential impact of hybrid true potato seed in Sub-Saharan Africa

P. Gildemacher*, E.M.S. ter Steeg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Potato farming underpins the livelihoods of millions of smallholder producers in Sub-Saharan Africa, but productivity remains well below its potential. Poor access to and consequent limited use of quality seed is an important factor contributing to low productivity. So far, attempts to develop potato seed systems mirroring the European model have not been successful or only partially. The innovation of hybrid true potato seed (HTPS) has created the opportunity to transform the seed potato sector in Sub-Saharan Africa taking a new, radically different approach. The land requirement for an HTPS-based seed system is lower as fewer generations are needed. Also, it will no longer be necessary to maintain and rapidly multiply plantlets from tissue culture. Availability of early generation seed (EGS) can quickly increase as quality seed can now be produced centrally in large quantities. Subsequently, EGS can be distributed easily to local specialised multipliers circumventing the logistical constrains of transport and storage of the vegetative system. Local multiplication means that seed tubers are grown close to the smallholder’s farm; this generates trust between seed supplier and client, which is important in the absence of a functional certification system. It is expected that smallholder potato producers will prefer seed tubers rather than HTPS or seedlings. Of course, HTPS varieties must match the needs of smallholders. Current product portfolios of international breeding companies are not tailored to Sub-Saharan Africa market demands. Short dormancy, late blight resistance and earliness are very important traits in Sub-Saharan Africa, while being (much) less important on the global seed potato market. HTPS (diploid) varieties can be improved faster making breeding for Sub-Saharan African demands feasible. Moreover, seed potato costs are expected to be lower in an HTPS system. Despite these obvious advantages, HTPS will not be an instant success. A last-mile retail system, bringing seed potatoes close to smallholder farms is adamant, and varieties tailored to specific smallholder needs must still be developed and must be affordable. Finally, training of smallholders on good agricultural practices, seed degeneration and the added value of quality seed will take time and resources. This chapter analyses current practices and constraints along the seed value chain and whether HTPS can address these challenges. In this way, it assesses the potential of HTPS to catalyse a transformation of the seed potato sector for the benefit of smallholder producers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImpact of hybrid potato
Subtitle of host publicationThe future of hybrid potato from a systems perspective
EditorsPaul C. Struik, Peter R. Gildemacher, Dirk Stemerding, Pim Lindhout
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086869466
ISBN (Print)9789086863921
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2023


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