Potato World vision PW-ACTUA Breeding costs time, the world is in a hurry I was recently at an EU conference in Brussels, organised by the European Commission; the topic was modern biotechnology and, in particular, whether or not to apply it in agriculture and horticulture. As I see it, this is about the techniques that work with native genes such as the CRISPR-cas9 methods. Under current Brussels legislation, these are now not allowed to be used by breeding companies. This is not about mixing different types, which is often referred to as genetic modification (GMO). One major advantage in addition to greater precision, is the fact that much time can be saved in the development of new varieties. This takes many years because, while the traditional breeding methods are still very useful in themselves, they do take a long time. Developing a good potato variety takes more than 10 years. Outside Europe, a broader policy on the use of these techniques is already being pursued in a number of countries. Permitting such new non-GMO-techniques in Europe is a crucial issue for the long-term competitiveness of the Dutch potato cluster. Not only does our chain go from soil to consumer but, in the Dutch potato chain, we also have unique control over exactly what is put in that soil. In this way, the sector can respond to the needs of the changing consumer and those of the companies that further process the potatoes. But it is also possible to take global cultivation conditions in view of the increasing need for potatoes as a food crop. This strengthens agriculture and food supply in many countries. These are crucial preconditions for economic development. Back to the conference. Many of those present see the importance of this kind of innovation. A number of opponents, however, indicated that they didn’t see its usefulness or any need to allow it. It’s good to exchange views, but meetings also take time. The EU will have to clarify matters quickly, because the technology is moving ahead, if necessary outside Europe, and the world is in a hurry! ● Dick Hylkema Director, Dutch Potato Organisations (NAO) “Water challenges in Israel are driving us to develop new techniques”, says Yaniv Yablonka from Yapro ltd. “We are looking positively into the 2018 export season which is now well underway”, says Yaniv Yablonka of Yapro Ltd, a leading Israeli potato exporter. “2017 was a challenging season to all and, as a result, we have slightly reduced the planting acreage for the spring of 2018. We have also reassessed the varieties we can offer for the coming season and invested heavily in trials of new varieties to fit the various export destinations as well as suitable varieties for the home market”. Since 2016, Yapro has been importing seeds to Israel for its own export requirements but also for other farmers who are producing white and red varieties for home consumption. “The greatest challenge ahead of us is the lack of water” added Yaniv. “ We had 5 consecutive drought winters and last December was the driest in many years. The sea of Galilee is drying due to low rainfalls in the upper Galilee and the Golan highest which has also resulted in reduced water levels at both the costal and mountains aquifers”. Water management has been Israel’s farming key focus and the country is now relying on its development of desalination plants along the shore of the Mediterranean sea, all of which are virtually fully operational. However, this is an expensive solution for potato crops and Israeli farmers are desperately in need of rain to maintain potato production and keep associated cost levels down. New techniques “We are known for our superior quality of potatoes and we are working extremely hard to retain this and improve in the long term. Water challenges are driving us to develop new techniques, plan better and put all our focus on sustainable farming in the Negev desert”. ● Water challenges ahead for Israeli potato growers Potato World 2018 • number 1 11 Pagina 10

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