By Zablon Oyugi
Sweet potato farmers have a reason to celebrate with the introduction of a new sweet potato variety that is not only drought-resistant but also high in yield.
The International Potato Center (CIP) in partnership with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has released a drought-resistant KC Sweet Purple sweet potato for growers in Kenya.
Originally from Ghana, the purple-fleshed, climate-resistant, and nutritious variety was previously named TU-82-155.
“Recognising its immense potential in contributing to food and nutrition security, CIP and KALRO collaborated to bring this game-changing variety to Kenya, where it was then known as ‘TU-PURPLE’. To ensure its reliability and performance in different agro-ecologies, the purple-fleshed variety has undergone rigorous testing through the national performance trials, a collaborative effort by KALRO and CIP. After proving its exceptional qualities including taste, nutritional value, and high-yield, this extraordinary variety has now been officially released in Kenya, under the name ‘KC-SWEET PURPLE’, read a statement by CIP in part.
The variety is widely adaptable but performs optimally in dry-land areas of Eastern Kenya, Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, and Tharaka Nithi. This can also be extended to Siaya, Alupe, Embu, and Kakamega and Coastal areas at Taita-Taveta, and Kwale.
Per the national performance trails, it has an early and rampant flowering characteristic with a maturity period of 120 – 150 days. The sweet potato yields 15.74t/ha on average and has a maximum potential storage root yield of 25t/ha.
It is resistant to the sweet potato weevil pest and tolerant to the sweet potato virus disease.
According to CIP, it has a 27.9 per cent dry matter content. It is also dark purple when boiled making it appetising. It has a moderately sweet taste and a dry–floury texture when boiled.
According to CIP, the food processors are eying it as healthy food additive and a potential source of natural food colorant due to its high levels of anthocyanin–a blue, violet, purple, or red pigment found in plants.
Anthocyanin has been proven to have antioxidant capacities, i.e., the ability to hinder the deterioration of stored food products.
It is also rich in beta-carotene and other minerals like Iron and Zinc.
According to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the distinct color of purple-fleshed sweet potato is a result from its high levels of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoids with a strong antioxidant effect that neutralizes harmful compounds in the body that damage cells.
“Sufficient intake of these natural protective agents is of crucial importance to reduce risks of heart disease and cancer, and lead a healthy and active life.”
Where to get it
Clean planting material for KC Sweet Purple can be got from the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Institute–Kiboko. JUA Sustainable African company decentralized vine multipliers can be accessed from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services offices in Bungoma and Muguga.