Food scientists collaborate with EU partners on Ethiopia potato project

Irish food scientists are collaborating with European partners to help Ethiopia develop sustainable seed potato systems.

This project, “Developing sustainable seed potato production systems for improved livelihoods” was set up as part of Teagasc’s new policy on international food security. If successful, the research will be disseminated to help local subsistence farmers, firstly in Ethiopia, and then across sub-Saharan Africa through a “Potato Coalition”.

Teagasc is partnering on the project with Vita, the Irish NGO, Wageningen University and Research, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, the International Potato Centre, Arba Minch University and the Irish Potato Federation.

Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle is in Ethiopia to visit a pilot project.

“This project is being implemented with Vita in the Chencha region of Ethiopia,” said Prof Boyle. “The project will empower and strengthen the local knowledge base by funding and training three Ethiopian PhD students.”

Prof Boyle is due to pay a return visit to Ethiopian Agriculture Minister Tefera Deribew this afternoon following the minister’s visit to Ireland in early October. During the visit he will have an opportunity to see the Vita pilot project on sustainable seed potato systems, and explore the role of research-led agricultural development in the Chencha region.

Vita CEO John Weakliam paid tribute to Prof Boyle and his Teagasc colleagues for facilitating the use of the world class capacity of Teagasc in research, extension and education, in addressing the constraints to sustainable food production and improved livelihoods in Africa.

Meanwhile, the Teagasc National Liquid Milk conference and farm tour, sponsored by AIB, took place in Co Meath yesterday. Teagasc liquid milk specialist Dr Joe Patton outlined the best measures when benchmarking your herd’s performance. He said that after examining the data from over 150 liquid milk herds, it shows that liquid milk producers who make better utilisation of forage and achieve high milk solids content are driving up profit.

He said that milk yield per cow is a poor predictor of net margin. The data also demonstrates how EBI is having a positive impact on fertility performance in a liquid milk context.

Dr Padraig O’Kiely, Teagasc Grange, stressed the importance of getting the basics rights and making high quality grass silage.

“Silage quality is determined mainly by its digestibility, preservation and stability at feedout. There are guidelines for consistently producing high quality silage that are working and being implemented on farms. Crucial to successfully fulfilling these guidelines is having an appropriate silage production and feeding plan in place.”

AIB agri adviser Patrick Butterly highlighted the benefits of farm business planning and cash flow management. “It’s important that farmers invest adequate time and resources into farm business planning, to provide better control and understanding of their farm business,” said Mr Butterly.

“Efficient cash flow and cost management, both in good times and bad, is essential to ensuring the financial stability of the farm business, enabling greater maximisation of future opportunities and/or early intervention against potential challenges that may arise.”

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