On 22 February, UNECE signed a four-year technical-cooperation Agreement with the world-renowned Swiss agricultural research station Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil (ACW) to raise the standard of cultivation, quality control and certification of seed potatoes in the Russian Federation and other CIS countries.
These countries still lack trained certification inspectors and adequate testing laboratories. Without proper testing for diseases and pests, seed potatoes are being placed on the market and the use of infected seed potatoes is contaminating the soil and reducing output. Current yields average only 14 tons per hectare, compared with the European average of 35-40 tons. Seed-potato certification systems, when in place, can boost the yield and prevent soil contamination.
Signing the Agreement, UNECE Deputy Executive Secretary Andrey Vasilyev said, “Through this ambitious technical cooperation programme with our Swiss partners, on the basis of the UNECE International Standard for Seed Potatoes we’ll be spreading the know-how for producing significantly higher yields of quality crops. The Russian Federation, because of its enormous territory and excellent climate, has a great, untapped potential for producing quality potatoes - as do other CIS countries. Because the potato is the world’s number one non-grain commodity, if the United Nations can help create sustainable systems for supporting high-yield potato cultivation, this will not only increase world food security but also help eliminate poverty”.
Agroscope Director, Dr. Jean-Philippe Mayor, pledged that his organization would:
- Provide the Russian Federation with professional and technical advice on cultivating and certifying seed potatoes.
- Help set up laboratories for quality control of seed potatoes at all stages of production and distribution.
- Train producers, quality inspectors and laboratory staff from both the Russian Federation and other CIS countries.
Financed by the Russian Voluntary Contribution Fund, this project will bring together growers, regional administration personnel, and quarantine and certification services.
Strategically planned technical visits in June, July and October 2011 will provide expertise and advice at critical points in the seed-potato certification cycle: elimination of contaminated plants in early June; acceptance/rejection of the crop in July; and laboratory tests for viruses in October.
Local personnel will be trained during the field visits. In addition, in June, the same people will go on a one-week training course in Switzerland at Bioreba laboratory, Basel, and at Agroscope ACW, Nyon.
The UNECE Standard on Seed Potatoes can be downloaded in English, French and Russian from: http://www.unece.org/trade/agr/standard/potatoes/pot_e.htm
For further information, contact:
Tel: +41 (0)22 917 41 46
Note to editors
The Federal Research Station Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil ACW, Switzerland (“Agroscope ACW”) is a non-profit governmental institution that carries out research in different branches of agriculture and provides scientific and practical support to agricultural producers in Switzerland. Agroscope is also responsible for quality control and certification of seed potatoes grown by about 1000 producers in Switzerland. Agroscope experts are active participants in the work of the UNECE Specialized Section on Standardization of Seed Potatoes, including the promotion of the UNECE Standard in the Russian Federation and the CIS. Agroscope has been involved in several successful projects with partners in Russia: adoption of the Russian Standard for Seed Potatoes based on the UNECE one in 2008; demonstration trials in the Lorkh Institute in 2010; testing of one Russian potato variety for including it in the European catalogue.