Thursday, July 25, 2024

Unica Potato: High yielding superior potato variety earning Laikipia farmers millions

The Unica potato variety is increasingly gaining popularity in Laikipia, one of Kenya’s leading potato producers, with farmers in the region adopting it to maximize their earnings.

This potato variety is said to have superior characteristics, such as early maturity, disease resistance, long shelf life, and high yielding.

However, despite its superior qualities compared to other varieties, the Unica potato variety has not yet been widely adopted by farmers.

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Esther Maina, a farmer from Mkogodo East ward in Laikipia county, who grows the variety, says this unique potato has been a game-changer a year since she started cultivating it.

“It’s unique because it requires fewer chemicals, is drought-resistant, matures quickly in three months and the yield is abundant,” she says.

According to her, they also have a longer shelf life, lasting six months or more, compared to other varieties that deteriorate within four months post-harvest.

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The farmer explains that this unique potato is ideal for making fries, and this makes them fetch better prices in the market compared to other varieties.

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“Unica also commands a better price, with a kilogramme selling at Sh100 or more, while Shangi potatoes sell for Sh50 per kilo. The yield is impressive, too—you can harvest about 80 bags of other varieties per acre, but with Unica, you get 300 bags of 90kg. One stem of Unica can produce 20 potatoes or more,” she added.

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Agneta Makutwa, Laikipia project officer with FAO says potato production in the area is increasing due to the adoption of the Unica variety, which is particularly valued for its drought resistance.

Released in 2016 by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization in collaboration with the International Potato Centre, Unica has oblong tubers with red skin, shallow eyes, and creamy skin.

It does well in both lowlands and highland regions of Kenya and grows to a medium height on the farm with strong stems, dark green medium-sized leaves, and produces pink flowers.

It is moderately resistant to late blight and highly resistant to potato leafroll virus and potato virus X. It can be used for chips, crisps, and as table variety with high vitamin C, iron, and Zinc.

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