Understanding Potato Production Practices in North-Western Kenya through Surveys: an Important Key to Improving Production

Abstract

Potato is the second most important food crop after maize in Kenya. However, most farmers produce potatoes under sub-optimal management, resulting in low yields, despite the introduction of improved varieties. Potato production practices were documented and compared to contribute towards improved potato management and productivity in Kenya. The study was guided by the hypothesis that potato farming and management practices influence potato performance and can depend on the production environment. Focus group discussions and household surveys were conducted in three major potato growing areas in Kaptama, Saboti and Lelan in Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Elgeyo Marakwet counties in Kenya. Farming was the main occupation of 58.2% of the respondents. Respondents across the study sites indicated that they grew potatoes with their main focus as a cash (83.6%) and food (16.4%) crop. Most respondents had planted potatoes during both the last long (96.4%) and short (92.4%) rainy seasons. The four most important constraints limiting optimal potato production according to respondents were lack of quality seed, diseases (specifically late blight and bacterial wilt), poor marketing and lack of adequate technical knowledge on potato management. Low yields realized by farmers were mainly influenced by poor farmer practices in the use of seed, fertilizers, pesticides and crop rotation. This was compounded by farmers’ perceptions on input quantities applied, frequencies and farmers’ access to agricultural extension information on potatoes, which heavily relied on family members and neighbouring farmers. Provision of quality seeds and training of farmers with the support of demonstrations on fertilizer and pesticide and appropriate crop rotation practices are recommended for improved potato production and yields. Use of irrigation where possible should be enhanced through government and development partners’ support to ensure sustainable potato production and supply. Also, the use of viable extension information channel(s) could enhance potato production for household food security, livelihoods and national goals.

Description

Keywords

Agronomic practices, Altitude, Focus group discussion, Household survey, Potato Productivity, Solanum tuberosum L.

Citation

Kwambai, T. K., Griffin, D., Struik, P. C., Stack, L., Rono, S., Brophy, C., Nyongesa, M., & Gorman, M. (2024). Seed Quality and Variety Preferences Amongst Potato Farmers in North-Western Kenya: Lessons for the Adoption of New Varieties. Potato Research, 67(1), 185-208. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11540-023-09626-8

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