Output 1: Seed plan
The SIAC methodology for expert elicitation will be used in the initial stakeholder workshop to acquire baseline information on the seed system. The survey will be designed using the seed framework from RTB, with variables added for network, degeneration, and APSIM modeling of potato productivity. The seed system will be mapped using network analysis . Degeneration modeling will be used to evaluate the performance of on-farm seed degeneration practices in the field trials (below). The role of seed quality in yield (and potential yield increase due to management) will be evaluated with outputs of degeneration modeling and additional data from field trials within the APSIM growth simulator designed to integrate models derived in different research efforts. The modeling will help estimate the relative likelihood of success of different interventions in the possible local scenarios (e.g., predicting the value of PS with a particular variety and a particular location). The ABSIM modeling creates a clear nexus between AgUni and BOKU University in Austria and represents the unique contribution of the Austrian partner. Professor Manschadi will visit Georgia twice during the project for intensive support on modeling: once at the initial workshop to help select the student and ensure the student’s modeling capacity, and a second time during the project for supervision. The student will spend 1 year in Austria, 6 months at the beginning of the project for coursework and 6 months at the end of the project to finalize the PhD thesis, gian international experience and start building her/his network of international colleagues and parnters. The student will make the first trip to Austria during the second semester of the project to allow plenty of time for the acquisition of a study visa.
Development of the seed plan for Georgia will rely heavily on previous efforts in other CIP research programs and RTB clusters, in which several seed plans have been developed (e.g., for Ecuador and Kenya). A template for a country seed plan developed in the RTB cluster will be modified for Georgia based on information gained in the stakeholder workshop. Particular attention will be given to exploring opportunities to include the private sector in the seed production chain.
Another stakeholder workshop at the end of the project will be used to elicit information on progress toward completion of project goals. The SIAC methodology will also be used and adapted in the final workshop to provide data on variables needed for final network analysis to assess actual changes in the system. Information will be solicited on trends to facilitate modeling of system changes over the next 5–15 years.
Output 2: Weaknesses in formal seed system addressed
Taking into account the information coming from the workshops to analyze the potato seed system, and the weaknesses identified by stakeholders, specific actions will be taken to address the main limiting factors.
For certification standards and alignment with international UNECE standards for seed potato— STANDARD S-1 (19), the PM and PI will review existing standards in Europe and prepare a report for the stakeholder workshop. They will prepare draft recommendations for appropriate standards based on information elicited in the workshop and the review. After review by stakeholders and seed experts of CIP and elsewhere, the recommendations will be presented to the MoA.
The PM and PI, in collaboration with the GLC and SRCA, will validate the best candidate disease detection (2) and seed multiplication practices in laboratory, greenhouse, and field trials using the MoA’s facilities. The tests will be done using experimental designs and statistical models that allow for statistical comparisons.
The RTB clusters on seed can provide numerous training materials for seed multiplication in low-input conditions (6) that would be appropriate for local conditions in Georgia after adaptation and translation. Adaptation of the manuals to local conditions will be coordinated by the project PM in consultation with stakeholders.
Using RTB experiences and published (UNECE) guidelines, the PI and PM will prepare a summary of best practices for field inspection, and present them in the first workshop for feedback and revision. A plan for in-field training will be developed in the workshop as well. These practices will be validated and, subsequently, revised with at least five inspectors. The results will be validated with stakeholders in the final stakeholder workshop and presented to the MoA.
Output 3. Farmer training plan for on-farm seed management
The PI and PM will present on-farm seed management practices from previous RTB work in the opening workshop for stakeholder feedback and refinement of planned trials. The PM will coordinate on-station and on-farm trials with the SRCA and FESC to identify best practices for the local context. Examples of the practices to be evaluated include PS, storage practices for optimum quality maintenance, seed treatment, post-storage diffused light exposure, and pre-planting negative selection (removal of inferior tubers). Candidate methods will be assessed first on the MoA field stations in two primary potato production areas—one in the lowlands (Tsilkani, Mtskheta-Mtianeti Region) and one in the highlands (Akhalkalaki, Samtskhe-Javakheti Region). All field trials on the MoA stations will be done with appropriate design for statistical comparison (16). Simpler trials will be done on-farm with one farmer per region. On-farm trials will be linked to and analyzed with on-station trials using a “Mother–Baby” design (10).
On the basis of the results of these trials, the PM and PI will coordinate with the MoA–FESC to produce training and reference materials. These will be geared toward both farmers and trainers of farmers, and explain how on-farm practices work and can be implemented. Here the project can borrow from other CIP programs that have developed such materials for SSA (6) as part of RTB work. The PM and PI will coordinate with the MoA–FESC to plan and implement TOT, one in each of the two target regions. The TOT will be done using published methodology and previous CIP experience (14).
Output 4. New varieties resistant to viruses and other seed-borne pathogens identified.
The PM and PI will develop documentation and a presentation explaining the concept of ISH and the importance of host plant resistance in the management of PSD. This will be presented and discussed at the first stakeholder workshop. On the basis of stakeholder feedback, particularly from potato scientists in the MoA, specific plans for integrating virus resistance screening will be developed using established protocols (1).
The PM and PI will coordinate with the MoA to establish field and greenhouse trials to evaluate virus resistance in a selected set of the current most widely grown varieties and most promising breeding candidate varieties (ca. 30), using established protocols (1). AgUni will provide technical support and use the information in degeneration modeling. On the basis of field trials, the MoA– SRCA will identify at least two candidate varieties from the most promising breeding materials introduced from CIP.
Dissemination of research results, capacity development, and empowerment of local stakeholders
Wide dissemination of results is a key project deliverable. Research results will be distributed via reports and publications (log frame) and at stakeholder workshops. Capacity will be strengthened within several institutions in Georgia. AgUni will be exposed to new methodologies related to modeling of seed systems and degeneration. The MoA’s capacity to plan the potato seed system and evaluate its success will be enhanced. For example, the SIAC methodology for expert elicitation can be used as a robust and relatively inexpensive way to monitor outcomes. Elements of the MoA involved in seed certification will benefit through increased capacity in disease detection and more effective field inspection. MoA–FESC’s capacity in farmer training methods related to onfarm management of seed quality will be greatly increased.