TRADE AND MARKET I NG Robust is the new trend Jan Erik Geersing, Caithness potatoes, Emmeloord: ‘Constant performance at all cultivation locations’ Jeroen Bakker, HZPC, Joure: ‘Robustness is more than just one concept in our breeding programme’ ‘I can show you what robustness means for us’, Geersing comes straight to the point. Together with a few McCain people, he walks to the trays with varieties that were grown at four different locations. ‘We choose not to present more varieties at the show, but a limited set of varieties that constantly perform well at the various cultivation locations. This ranges from sand to heavy clay. Some varieties are performing badly and others are consistent as regards shape and yield. The first cultivation criterion we test for is the shape. The heavier the soil, the more the tuber shape comes under pressure. On soils with more than 40 percent clay fractions, you’ll get a lot of strange shapes. A robust variety must be consistent and do well on all soil types. Better always to achieve a 7 than a result that’s somewhere between 5 and 8. An example is the Marvel variety, a Fontane replacement. It’s a variety that excels in the processing of chips, but is also multi-applicable. For me, a robust variety must be really good in one aspect, but must also have several sales markets. Marvel is a real allrounder. In addition to chips, it can also be processed as crisps due to its high underwater weight. At the British small-packaging company Bartlet’s, the variety even won a table potato taste test. Another important characteristic of robustness is Phytophthora resistance. I’m surprised by the great interest in our Phytophthora-resistant Cammeo. This variety is interesting for both conventional and organic growers. It may well be robust against Phytophthora, but the resistance is too fragile unless we, as a potato sector, handle it properly. So far, we only have seven resistance genes available in our breeding work. We must treat these with great care by setting up a good resistance management programme and good cultivation techniques.’ ‘Robustness is more than just one concept in our breeding programme. In short, we’re talking about a traditional variety that does well in both the cultivation of seed and of consumption potatoes. Once a variety is robust, it’s difficult to defeat. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for us breeders to figure out what makes it easier to grow a robust variety than another variety. As robustness is a broad attribute, I believe that predicting it is the challenge of the future. The scientists at our R&D station in Metslawier help breeders with individual issues, but don’t offer total solutions. That’s the task of the breeder. He’s the person to make the right crossings, but you don’t know what the right crossings are until you’ve mapped out certain characteristics. For example, a phytopathologist can perform certain disease tests. A molecular biologist can solve certain genetic problems. In this way, you search together for the pieces of the puzzle, which the breeder then has to put together. That’s a question of experience and applying both practical and theoretical knowledge. As HZPC, we have a comprehensive breeding programme. With three breeders we make a thousand crossings for the different market segments every year, including crisps, chips, peeled, traditional and retail fresh. So three pairs of eyes look at the seedlings to get the nuances in varieties clear. I started out as a breeder ten years ago and the development of a new variety is a lengthy process. We have high expectations of the number HZD09-7530. This robust table potato variety is Phytophthora resistant and so it can also be reliably grown organically. In addition, it has beautiful yellow flesh, a good taste, and stores well. In marketing, we focus not only on the organic market, but on the entire table potato chain. This broad usability is necessary to make it a great variety. Because it’s a variety with a broad adaptation for growers – both seed and consumption potato growers – and has low risk cultivation and storage, the variety poses little risk for the chain. However, Phytophthora pressure still requires a joint approach together with the grower. A minimum, supportive crop protection prevents the rapid adaptation of the pathogen, avoiding the need for resistance. Breeding remains a long process, whereas new techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9 and Cisgenesis can add robustness to a variety much more quickly. As a result, a societal environmental benefit from Phytophthora resistance can be easily introduced into the market and make an impact.’ 24 Potato World 2018 • number 1 Pagina 23

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