Tracking adoption of improved varieties of RTB crops in Asia

Tracking adoption of improved varieties of RTB crops in Asia

CIP social scientists met with agricultural experts from the top nine Asian potato- and sweetpotato- growing countries to estimate the adoption of improved potato and sweetpotato varieties. In these countries, 97% of the potato area is planted with improved varieties, and 19% of this land is in CIP-related varieties. For sweetpotatoes, 88% of the area is planted with improved varieties. Farmers in nine Asian countries have also accepted improved cassava varieties; 83% of the crop is of improved varieties. CIAT has contributed to the development of most of the cassava varieties released in Asia.

Plant breeding can help to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Asia, but tracking the adoption of improved crop varieties is challenging.

To cover this vast continent, CIP researchers needed a less expensive alternative to large surveys, says agricultural economist Marcel Gatto. Between 2014 and 2016, they met with several hundred breeders, extension agents, crop and seed experts (347 for potato and 228 for sweetpotato) in 41 workshops using a method known as expert elicitation to estimate adoption rates. Seven potato-producing countries were selected: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam. The sweetpotato-producing countries were Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Vietnam.

Access to credit and fertilizer can improve adoption of improved varieties. G. Smith/CIAT

They found that 168 CIP-related potato varieties had been released, of which 63 (30%) were adopted. In the selected countries, potatoes are grown on 7.6 million ha of which almost all (97%) is planted with improved varieties. Of this, 19% is cultivated with CIP-related varieties, benefitting about three million households in China, India and Nepal. Varieties developed by CIP with NARS (national agricultural research systems) account for 25% of the total potato area in China, and 34% in Nepal, but little in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, or Bangladesh, and none in Pakistan. The low adoption of CIP-NARS varieties in Bangladesh is puzzling, because 16 of these varieties were released during 1990-2014.

The top-ranked variety from China, Kexin No. 1, a NARS variety, covers almost 10% (700,000 ha) of the total area planted in potatoes in the selected countries. The Indian early-maturing variety, Kufri Pukhraj, also a NARS variety, is grown on 510,000 ha. “One of CIP’s biggest successes is Cooperation 88,” explains Gatto. Cooperation 88 is a CIP-NARS variety that is resistant to late blight; it is planted on just 164,000 ha. However, when taken together, the 10 main CIP-NARS varieties cover over a million ha, much of it in China. “The CIP-related varieties are increasingly popular,” says Gatto. But he also adds that “little is known about the enabling environment which has brought about these successes.” Clearly, more research is needed to better understand how varieties become a runaway success.

NARS have released 434 improved sweetpotato varieties in the study countries. China has contributed most of these, with few releases in the other countries, except for Papua New Guinea, which reintroduced promising landraces. By 2015, Asian farmers had adopted 195 improved sweetpotato varieties, including 27 related to CIP. Some 88% of the area (3.6 million ha) in the study countries is planted with improved varieties, including 5% with CIP-related ones.