Plant Production and Protection

Sowing the seeds to advance potato production in Azerbaijan

FAO and the government create new varieties to reduce impact of drought and disease

Baku, Azerbaijan - FAO Director-General QU Dongyu visiting the Scientific Research Institute on Vegetable Growing under the Ministry of Agriculture of Azerbaijan

©FAO/Zaur Zeynalov


A disease-free seed potato production system, established with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is helping farmers in the Republic of Azerbaijan to overcome the impact of disease and drought on the crop and thereby boost its productivity.

Through the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme, FAO has worked with the government to strengthen national capacities on tissue culture techniques, virus research and varietal selection, resulting in the production of disease-free plants and new improved potato varieties. More than 1 000 potato farmers, scientists and other experts have also received training through the project.

Entitled “Development of Disease-Free Seed Potato Production in Azerbaijan”, the initial project was conducted between 2013 and 2015 with the aim of expanding potato research and healthy seed production.

Subsequently, FAO worked with the government on a second project in 2018 -2023 on establishing a national disease-free seed potato production system in Azerbaijan.

FAO provided technical assistance for researchers and farmers, and guidance on infrastructure for seed production and increasing the capacity of the tissue culture laboratory at the Scientific Research Institute of Vegetables in Baku.

 “Farmers had been complaining about declining yields because of disease for years,” said Hafiz Muminjanov, FAO Plant Production and Protection Division Technical Adviser and the first project’s Lead Technical Officer. “FAO showed it was possible to produce disease-free potatoes and attracted government support for healthy seeds and new improved varieties for the farmers.”

Working with FAO, the government refurbished existing laboratories and engaged a new team of researchers while the UN organization provided equipment and training for scientists, technicians, advisers and farmers. FAO also collaborated on the improvement of seed systems through enhanced access to quality seeds, technical assistance in official testing and demonstration of new varieties.

“A scientifically-based system has been established for the production and multiplication of disease-free seed potatoes in Azerbaijan,” said Muminjanov.

Technical assistance was provided for the testing and demonstration of 19 new varieties that were imported from Europe, and the establishment of a national seed potato certification system.

Of these, 11 high-yielding potato varieties were selected by farmers and recommended for inclusion on a national list. Another five varieties were also selected from the advanced research of the International Potato Center and added to the list.

Enhancing potato production and food security

Azerbaijan has one of the highest potato consumption rates in central Asia and the potato is a national staple, added to traditional dishes like soups and stews.

Disease-resistant and drought-tolerant varieties are critical to tap into the potential of potato production and enhance the country’s nutrition and food security in the future.

Before the joint initiative between FAO and Azerbaijan, most quality seed potatoes were being imported from other countries.  Laboratory facilities for virus analysis and in vitro tissue culture have now been strengthened and a farmer-based multiplication scheme has been established.

The tissue culture and training facilities established at Azerbaijan’s Research Institute of Vegetables and Potatoes, are being used for rapid in vitro propagation of other plant species and in vitro preservation of germplasm.

“The projects have provided good results to enhance research and production, but there are challenges with the development of new varieties,” said Wilson Hugo, technical officer at FAO headquarters in Rome. “This is about creating disease-resistant varieties for long-term sustainability and rural development.”

The Azerbaijan project is central to FAO’s commitment to: strengthen food security and nutrition; manage plant pests and diseases; support and develop applied research in food and agriculture; and empower smallholders and their families.

Through the collaboration, national policies and institutions have been strengthened to increase private sector competitiveness and reduce the vulnerability of the economy and the population to external shocks.

In the long-run, at least 150 000 Azerbaijani rural families are expected to benefit from an improved disease-free seed potato production system if farmers adopt the new varieties and purchase seed.