Potato is the second most important staple food crop in Kenya and the surrounding region. Potato is a dual-purpose crop and is grown for both food and income, with over 90% of the land used for potato cultivation belonging to smallholders. According to the FAO, potato yields in Kenya have been declining over the past decade and national productivity has been significantly reduced, despite the areas under potato cultivation by small-holders increasing. Current yields are heavily affected by pests and disease, including potato cyst nematodes (PCN). PCN has been found to be widespread in potato growing regions, but as a new invasive pest there is currently no infrastructure for managing this pathogen in Kenya.
Researchers from the School of Biology are using a metagenetic approach previously applied for genotyping PCN in Scotland to characterise the PCN in Kenya. The work will feed directly into PCN management strategies to improve crop production of key importance for smallholder food security and income in Kenya.