THREE POTATO varieties have been recommended for release in Kenya thanks to the joint efforts of AHDB, James Hutton Ltd, SASA and Syngenta's Seeds2B Africa.

Ten potato varieties were trialled at three separate Kenyan farms over two seasons with free variety Cara, and two James Hutton Ltd varieties, Gemson and Lady Balfour, making the grade.

The approval opens the door for GB producers to export to Kenya where potatoes are the second most important food crop after maize. Between two and three million tonnes of potatoes are grown there annually, but most farmers use home-saved seed and achieve yields of as little as 10 tonnes per hectare.

In the trials, Cara yielded very strongly over the course of both seasons, with a combined average yield of 52 tonnes per hectare. However, the top performer in terms of yield was Lady Balfour at 56 tonnes per hectare, while Gemson yielded 42 tonnes per hectare on average.

AHDB's head of trade development Rob Burns said: “This is great news for GB seed producers and our next steps now will be to support them to create links in Kenya so that they can take advantage of this opportunity.

“Kenya has a burgeoning middle class; and as well as table varieties there is a growing need for processing potato seed to supply the growing market for premium potato-based products such as crisps and chips.”

Head of James Hutton Ltd, Jonathan Snape, said: “We are delighted that two of the varieties we bred for Greenvale AP and Grampian Growers have performed so well in these trials and we will be engaging with representatives of the Kenyan potato industry in order to open up this potentially important new export market.

“We are grateful for the support of the Scottish Society of Crop Research who facilitated getting high quality Scottish seed out to Kenya for the trials.”

As Kenya is keen to approve more processing varieties the team are considering resubmitting Hermes for a third season. SASA export liaison Jackie Gibson explained: “The three varieties recommended for release so far have only been approved as table varieties. While processing variety Hermes performed very well in both seasons, its average yield of 41 tonnes per hectare was very slightly too low to be recommended for release.

“However with processing varieties they are looking for at least 21% dry matter content and as Hermes has a recorded dry matter of 23% we believe with a third season of trials and additional testing it can achieve recommendation as a processing variety.”