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RWANDA – RAB’s researcher wins the 2014 Potato Taste Challenge Prize

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Joseph Bigirimana, a researcher from the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) has won the 2014 Potato Taste Challenge Prize.

Bigirimana will receive a sum US$20,000, which will be used to pursue pilot interventions aimed at testing whether controlling ‘antestia bug’ will reduce potato taste defect in coffee.

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Bigirimana and his team will partner with Dr. Dick Walyaro and Dr. Theodore Asiimwe (also from Rab) in his potato taste mitigation efforts, a statement from the parastatal says.

The single insect is said to cause the mysterious “potato taste” defect plaguing coffee in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

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In Rwanda, the “antestia bug” (antestiopsis orbitalis) not only destroys up to 38 per cent of coffee crops, but likely causes the taste defect which costs the Rwandan coffee sector millions of dollars per year, causes huge losses in Burundi, and harms the Democratic Republic of Congo’s nascent coffee industry, according to the statement.

Over the past years, the Government of Rwanda, local institutions of higher learning and international partners have worked together to identify the cause and possible detection and mitigation techniques for potato taste.

To help source potential solutions to the challenge, the government organised a Coffee Research Symposium in March 2014, which attracted over 150 experts across the region. Participants identified the need for practical solutions to combat the negative effects of potato taste on the East African coffee market.

To answer this call, a US non-profit the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), in partnership with the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) – organiser of the prestigious Cup of Excellence coffee competition – designed a Potato Taste Challenge Prize to support an innovative technology or technique to detect or mitigates potato taste.

A number of ACE member coffee companies donated money to support this prize.

“An international Technical Review Committee selected Bigirimana’s proposal from numerous high-level submissions. Bigirimana’s proposal focuses on studying the effects of pyrethroid organic pesticide on antestia bugs, and its subsequent effects,” the organisers said in a statement.

Source: http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/index.php?i=15763&a=77856

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