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Adoption of rooted apical cuttings improves the availability of high-quality seed in southwestern Uganda

Frank Kakuru, Kigezi Farmers’ Resource Centre; 

Alex Barekye, Principal Research Officer at National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), former Director of Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) 

Pieter Wauters, formerly with International Potato Center in Uganda 


Potato is an important food and cash crop in Uganda. Traditionally grown by smallholder farmers in the 

southwestern, western, and eastern highlands of the country, its production has recently expanded to low- and midland areas in central and northwestern Uganda. Potato production in Uganda has been steadily increasing to meet the growing demand for consumption. However, this increase in production has primarily come from expanding cultivated land rather than improving productivity. Currently, potato farmers in Uganda harvest an average of 8-10 tons per hectare (t/ha), while realistically they could achieve yields of 20-30 t/ha. The main reason for this underproduction is the widespread practice of recycling seed from previous harvests or using seed obtained from the open market. This seed often carries seed-borne pathogens such as bacterial wilt and is also very susceptible to late blight. 

Kigezi Farmers’ Resource Centre (KFRC) is a family-owned company located in Rubanda district, southwestern Uganda. It produces and sells early generation seed potato. The company owns two screenhouses, three diffused light stores with a capacity of 180 tons and more than 25 acres of land for producing and storing minitubers and pre-basic seed. The company annually hires more than 40 acres of land for the production of basic seed. KFRC maintains the soil health on the farm by a variety of practices, including seasonal crop rotation of legumes and sorghum. To improve farmers’ access to high-quality seed of desired varieties (mainly NAROPOT 4/Rwangume and Kinigi) in a timely manner, KFRC has formed partnerships with local and international partners to produce seed potato from rooted apical cuttings (RACs) (Picture 1). 

RACs are like vegetable seedlings. They are produced in screenhouses from tissue culture material by vegetative propagation and are then transplanted in the field where they produce tubers that can be further multiplied for several seasons. It is important to keep the mother plants in the screenhouses in a juvenile state throughout the production cycle. The highest productivity potential lies in the physiologically young tissue; tuber yields reduce as the mother plants mature. RACs are disease-free and highly productive; they have shown the capacity to produce 10-25+ tubers per RAC when planted in the screenhouse and approximately 45-60 tubers per RAC when planted in the field (Picture 2). 


The Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) in Kabale, southwestern Uganda, is where KFRC purchases all the starter material. This public research institute also offers the technical support needed for the on-farm management of tissue culture plantlets.

The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) entered a cost sharing partnership with KFRC in 2019 to construct two screenhouses in which the company produces minitubers and RACs. IFDC also partnered with KFRC to build a modern diffused light storage facility to store the early generation seed produced (Pictures 3 & 4).

The International Potato Center (CIP), with financial support from GIZ GmbH and the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers, and Bananas, supported KFRC to start the production and multiplication of RACs through capacity building, workshops and a learning trip to Stokman Rozen Kenya. 


KFRC planted in the 2020 A season 700 RACs in the open field and harvested 450 kg of pre-basic seed tubers. This is the equivalent of 0.64 kg of tubers harvested per RAC planted. After sprouting, these tubers were replanted in the 2022 B season and yielded approximately 12,000 kg of basic seed tubers; most measured 30-45 mm in diameter (Table 1). This harvest was partly sold to local seed multipliers and development partners like the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) and IFDC and partly replanted in the 2023 A season. In the current 2023 B season, the company has planted 20,000 RACs in its screenhouses (Pictures 5 & 6). Both will be harvested in the beginning of 2024. 

Table 1. Production and further field multiplication of RACs by KFRC.




  Harvested (kg) 

  Seed stored (kg) 

  2022 A 

  Jan – March 

  700 RACs 



  2022 B 

  Aug – Oct 

  450 kg pre-basic seed 



  2023 A 

  Jan – March 

  5,000 kg basic seed 



The adoption of the RAC technology by KFRC significantly helped the company to increase the supply of high-quality seed potato to its surrounding communities, resulting in doubled yields for their smallholder farmers. KFRC was also able to expand its marketing activities with customers from northwestern Uganda (Kilimo Kisasa Ltd), eastern Uganda (Maikut Group) and also Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Since the introduction to and the uptake of the RAC technology by KFRC, potato farmers in and around Rubanda district are able to access more quality planting material through the direct purchase of RACs and tubers (pre-basic and basic seed) produced out of RACs. This has led to increased seed and table potato production in the Kigezi sub-region, thus increasing household incomes as potato is the main cash crop in the area. 

Lessons learned 

By the introduction and uptake of the RAC technology, KFRC has learned that high-quality early generation seed can be produced all year round through the continuous propagation of mother plants, irrespective of the season. This lowers operational costs, resulting in increased profitability for the company.  Getting farmers to buy and multiply RACs is still a challenge.


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