Prisca Chidinma Anyalewechi | March 29, 2020
James Obadiah lives in Nigeria’s Plateau State where he is harvesting irrigated potatoes and preparing his land for planting rainy season potatoes. He sorts his Irish potatoes two or three times before planting, and also after harvest and in storage. He separates potato tubers for seed from potatoes for consumption. Sorting also helps Mr. Obadiah separate rotten or infected potatoes from good ones, after which he buries the infected tubers outside the farm. Farmers should also avoid storing wounded potatoes or using them as seed because they also carry disease organisms that could infect other potatoes.
It’s a bright and slightly chilly morning. James Obadiah is standing in his potato farm, appreciating how beautiful and healthy his potato plants look. He says, “I have been potato farming almost all of my life because it is a culture and I inherited this from my parents.”
Mr. Obadiah lives in Nigeria’s Plateau State where he grows rainfed potatoes in rainy seasons and irrigated potatoes during dry seasons. This gives him a continual source of income throughout the year. Currently, he is harvesting irrigated potatoes and preparing his land for rainy season farming.
Potatoes take about 10 to 12 weeks to mature and Mr. Obadiah grows improved varieties such as Connect, Nicola, F1, Marabel, and Caruso.
To achieve bumper yields, to satisfy his market, and to earn a better income, Mr. Obadiah follows good agricultural practices for land preparation, weeding, planting, harvesting, sorting, grading, and adding value.
He sorts his potatoes two or three times before planting, and also after harvest and in storage. He separates potato tubers for seed and potatoes for consumption. Sorting also helps Mr. Obadiah separate rotten or infected potatoes from good ones, after which he buries the infected tubers outside the farm.
Vou Shutt is a plant pathologist with the Plant Science and Technology Department at the University of Jos. She says that sorting is very important to prevent diseases from infecting healthy seed tubers and reducing their rate of germination.
Ms. Shutt explains that when farmers plant infected seed tubers, rainwater transmits disease organisms through the soil to other plants, which can infect the whole field.
She encourages farmers to always sort their potatoes to avoid losing yield. She says: “Ensure that you are taking clean seed tubers to your farm for planting. If you have clean seed tubers, you have a clean farm without diseases. This assures that you will have a good harvest.”
Ms. Shutt adds that farmers should avoid using cut or wounded seed potatoes because these also carry disease organisms that could infect other seed tubers. She says the solution is to sort and remove infected tubers during harvest—before they can transmit diseases and pests like bacterial wilt, tuber moth, and blight during storage.
After harvesting and sorting, farmers grade potatoes into different sizes. Emmanuel Shippi is a farmer from the Pankshin Local Government Area in Nigeria. He says grading is another necessary step for potato farmers.
Mr. Shippi says: “I grade my potatoes into three sizes: the smallest, the egg size, and the table size. The egg sizes are used as my seed tubers, the table sizes are for sale, and the smallest sizes are for family consumption because they are highly nutritious.” While all potatoes are nutritious, the smallest are even more nutrient-rich because they contain less starch that bigger potatoes.
Potato farmers in the area are increasingly adding value to improve their income. Isaac Bawa is a farmer from the Bokkos Local Government Area who adds value to his potatoes after grading by processing them into potato flour and potato starch.
Mr. Obadiah says that sorting and grading potatoes has increased his yield and skyrocketed his income. He says: “A bag of potato seed tubers gives me a minimum of 50 bags of tubers after harvest. On one hectare of land in one season, I produce an average of 500 bags of potatoes which I sell at an average price of 12,000 to 15,000 Nigerian naira ($33-41 US) per 50-kilogram bag.” Thus, his total income is 6,000,000 to 7,500,000 naira ($16,320-20,400 US)—a good income for his effort.
This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project in Nigeria in partnership with AFC Agriculture and Finance Consultants.