Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
Mr Murtalab Adedamola, the ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), made this known in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan on Tuesday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa.
Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar.
“It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight – and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said.
Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water.
The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting.
He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits.
“When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.
Also, the Head of TAAT Clearinghouse, Dr Mpoko Bokanga, said the new potato variety was unique due to its orange colour which signified its Vitamin A content.
“This vitamin is deficient in many diets across Africa, partly because of shortcomings in the people’s access to assorted vegetables.
“Hence TAAT decided to establish a Commodity Technology Delivery Compact on OFSP, with a primary focus on boosting nutritional security in both rural and urban areas.
“Several processing opportunities exist for OFSP, particularly as puree for addition to processed foods, including baked products.
“OFSP offers a breakthrough in Africa’s nutritional security because of its easy introduction into small scale-farming systems and its compatibility with traditional and modern diets,” Bokanga said.