State Explores Aeroponics technology for seed potato production at ADC

Did you know soil is no longer necessary for growing seed potatoes?

I have learnt that to do anything in this world worth doing, one must not stand back shivering and thinking of the setbacks and danger; but must jump in, and scramble through as best as one can. This inspiring words describes the strategic move by ADC towards surviving as a seed potato grower for the country amidst a persistent drowning shortage of basic seed potato that has continued to affect our targeted certified seed potato production for a while.

With this realization, the corporation has strategically narrowed down to focus on its strength and available opportunities, under the ADC Seed Potato Complex that comprises of two farms, a gardening and cold-storage facility and more recently a full functional tissue culture Lab and green house.

Led by the MD and also CEO of ADC Mr: William Kirwa, the corporation has once again undertaken a research project, in collaboration with the CIP- International Potato Centre led by Dr. Ian Barker, to produce seed potatoes tubers in air, by means of a novel modern system known as aeroponics.

Why aeroponics?

The aeroponic system of cultivation for the production of first generation seed potatoes is carried out in greenhouses and basically consists of maintaining the roots of the plant in the air and in conditions of total darkness, whereby nutrient-enriched water is sprayed on them periodically.

Roots grow in the air, and this enables a great exposure to air and avoids the contact of the tubers with soil pathogens.Therefore, the production per plant increases considerably.This increase brings the price of the tuber down substantially.

The system increases productivity, as it is expected that up to fifity tubers per plant can be obtained instead of the three or four achieved using conventional methods.Moreover, it reduces the rate of soil-based diseases such as PLRV; Bacterial wilts and it is a more sustainable system as it needs lower inputs of water and fertilizers in precise amount of both items needed by the plant at each phase of its development.

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Plant nutrition is supplied into a closed circuit.Consumption is consequently limited to only the quantities absorbed by the plants, allowing for substantial water savings.Because the aeroponic system is a continuous-cycle in an enclosed space it reduces the agricultural labor into a series of mechanical routine operational tasks which are carried out daily and throughout the year. Hence the staff at the ADC Molo Complex have acquired considerable skill within a short period of time few months. 

The aeroponic equipment is sheltered within greenhouses hence climate controls within the greenhouse ensure optimal growing conditions, assuring high yields.The basic local requirements to achieve this are some sunshine, a level area of land which is not shaded by mountains or high buildings. The area should be accessible by road and have water of suitable quality for agricultural use and lastly a constant but small amount of electric power.

Aeroponic growing is considered to be safe and ecologically friendly for producing natural, healthy plants and crops.The main ecological advantages of aeroponics are the conservation of water and energy. As aeroponics is conducted in air combined with micro-droplets of water, almost any plant can grow to maturity in air with a plentiful supply of oxygen, water and nutrients and since the increased aeration of nutrient solution delivers more oxygen to plant roots, stimulating growth and helping to prevent pathogen formation.

The article was first published in the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) website.

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