Rwandan potato farmers have welcomed the government’s ongoing trials on a new Irish potato variety that is resistant to the devastating late blight disease. If successful, farmers can grow the new potato variety without necessarily using agrochemicals. Late blight, a potentially devastating disease affecting potatoes and tomatoes, infecting leaves, stems, potato tubers and tomato fruits, spreads quickly in fields and can result in total crop failure if untreated. According to the International potato Centre (CIP), in East Africa, the disease can destroy as much as 60-100 per cent of the crop.
The CIP scientists working with Rwanda are using bioengineering to transfer resistance genes from wild potato relatives into varieties that are already popular with farmers and consumers to fight the disease.