Assessment of opportunities for Burundian small-scale potato farmers to increase productivity and income
This research (PDF) in Potato Research assessed the impact of the main factors contributing to yield improvement of potatoes: improved varieties, healthier seed, better stored seed, late blight disease control and fertilisation. From 2014 through 2016, on-farm experiments were carried out in three provinces surrounding Bujumbura town in Burundi to improve the low potato (Solanum tuberosum) yields, which currently stands at about 6 t ha-1. The treatments that were tested were the introduction of two new varieties, use of early generation seed from a rapid multiplication scheme, earlier harvesting of a seed crop, seed storage in a diffused light store, and research-based timing and dose rate of fertilisers and fungicides. Marginal rates of return on investments were calculated at farm level and current and tested alternative technologies were compared. Costs and benefits of applying such techniques were calculated. An improved variety contributed up to 20% yield increase and healthier seed 80%. Early harvesting reduced yield by 30% and reduced incidence of brown rot in the current season, but increased it (from 21 to 39%) in the following season when tubers were replanted. Diffused light storage, alternating contact and systemic fungicide application, and application of chemical fertilisers resulted in 30, 50 and 60% yield increases, respectively. It was shown that it is possible to double yields and economic returns (marginal rates of return) under the growing conditions in Burundi when growers plant healthy pre-sprouted seed of a new variety and apply chemical fertilisers and fungicides.