Exploring Aeroponics technology for seed potato production at ADC

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

b_150_100_16777215_00___images_random_agri1.jpgI 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 survivng 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 realistaion, the corporation has strategically narrowed down to focus on its strentgh and available opportunities, under the ADC Seed Potato Complex that comprises of two farms, a garding and coldstorage 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 collabaoration 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.

The ADC has embraced the modern and recently introduced technology of Aeroponics in Molo since September this year. The technology is of pioneering experience at ADC and Kenya as a whole, given that never previously all seed potato production has been done under the traditional conventional propagation and more recently established a modern well organised state of art Tissue culture labaratory. With healthy disease free plants being propagated invitro in the TC lab, the plantlets were transferred into the new ADC Molo aeroponics facility made up of six equal boxes each composed of 80 openings, hence making our capacity 480plants in total. The varieties planted in the aeroponics include both white and red varieties sourced from KARI-Tigoni, PQS- Muguga and own certified materials.

b_150_100_16777215_00___images_random_agri2.jpgAeroponics being an exclusively sophisticated plant-growing technique ideally suited to a range of purposes, the main aim for establishment at the ADC Molo is to prouce the minituber seed of higher generation for seed production purposes at unit and more particularly the growing of disease-free seed potato crops. The ADC Molo Seed Potato Complex was borne out of the need for certified seed potato recognises that adoption of the aeroponics technology will play a significant role in curbing the shortage of basic seed potato. Seed potato being a key at ADC is also second most important food crop after maize in Kenya. The crop has gained recognition and interest due to its short maturity, nutritional value as a highly valued economic crop as compared to common cereal.

Aeroponic culture differs from both conventional propagation methods and in-vitro plant tissue culture growing as aeroponics is conducted without a growing medium hence water is used to transmit nutrients to suspended seed potatoes, in aeroponics, with conventional one requires tubers to be planted in the soil. Aeroponics uses no soil but requires a fine nutritious mist sprayed over the roots of  suspended seed potatoes set within a sealed chamber. This growth method is highly efficient in terms of water, nutrients, energy, and space availability and translocation by the plant roots. Aeroponics significantly advanced tissue culture technology. It cloned plants in less time and reduced numerous labor steps associated with tissue culture techniques. Aeroponics could eliminate stage I and stage II plantings into soil (the bane of all tissue culture growers. In short, cloning became easier because the aeroponic apparatus initiated faster and cleaner root development through a sterile, nutrient rich, highly oxygenated, and moist environment.

b_150_100_16777215_00___images_random_agri3.jpgIn our aeroponics facility, plants from different varieties are growing suspended in a closed or semi-closed environment by spraying the plant's dangling roots and lower stem with a nutrient-rich water solution. The leaves and crown, often called the "canopy", extend above. The roots of the plant are separated by the plant support structure. Many times closed cell foam is compressed around the lower stem and inserted into an opening in the aeroponic chamber, which decreases labor and expense; for larger plants, trellising is used to suspend the weight of vegetation and fruit.

Ideally, the aeroponic environment is kept free from pests and disease so that the plants may grow healthier and quicker than plants grown in a medium. We have tried to restrict entrance into the facility to keep cectors of diseases away, however, since most aeroponic environments are not perfectly closed off to the outside, curious persons, pests and disease may still cause a threat. Controlled environments advance plant development, health, growth, flowering and fruiting for any given plant species and cultivars.

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