Potato World vision PW-ACTUA Growers must learn to think big This season, the average grower won’t be able to realise a cost-plus. Seventy to eighty percent of the harvest in leading potato countries in Northwest Europe is already predestined for a particular customer and to a large extent for a fixed agreed price. The potato processing industry needs more raw material every year, 30 percent over the last 5 years. In addition, there’s the export of ware potatoes from Northwest Europe, which is also growing. Processors in turn sign sales contracts at agreed fixed prices. They can do this because of the guarantee for the raw material at a fixed price. Even with a bit of backward integration, the industry has a ‘grip’ on the seed potatoes. The grower, on the other hand, bears a relatively high proportion of the risks. In the negotiations with the buyer, the grower operates on his own. Dutch growers are at the top in Europe but as merchants, they don’t realise that their beautiful product goes at below cost-plus and that they bear all the risks. A counter-move from only the Organisation for Agriculture & Horticulture (LTO) and the Dutch processing industry will not carry enough international weight. The Netherlands has the smallest total crop area of all five northwestern countries and is a net importer. Growers and producer organisations should work much more closely together at European level to enter into joint discussions with the European potato processing industry. Creating a sales collective together has already been tried before, and so we shouldn’t try that again. Cost price, risk spreading, market price transparency and less arbitrariness in quality requirements, maybe we should start with that. Processing will continue to grow and what does that mean for sustainable cultivation and our soil fertility? Growers should come up with their own terms of supply and not sign the terms of their buyer individually. A good and healthy collaboration with the processing industry, where risks are shared and sustainability is of paramount importance, matters a great deal for the whole sector. Victor Phaff Secretary Northwestern European Potato Growers, NEPG Wageningen University & Research recently started using computer models to make the Phytophthora infestans potato blight controllable in a sustainable way. Francine Pacilly recently obtained her doctorate with a thesis on this sociallyrelevant method of working. Her research provides important insights for potato growers, breeders, seed potato traders, retailers and government authorities. Resistant varieties can make an important contribution to the sustainable control of the disease. Cooperation with the entire potato sector is needed for this, says Pacilly. Resistant potato varieties are important for tackling Phytophthora, but that doesn’t mean that a structural solution has yet been achieved, Pacilly emphasises. This is because the DNA of the potato disease can change and eventually resistant varieties can also be affected. But the availability of resistant varieties is still limited, while new resistant varieties are coming onto the market very slowly. In her PhD research Pacilly used the new computer models to investigate how the disease spreads in an agricultural landscape and what the effect is of growing resistant varieties. These models show that, as the number of potato fields with resistant varieties increases, the risk also increases and that aggressive variants of the pathogen spread more quickly. The disease probability only decreases when resistant varieties are grown on more than 50 percent of the acreage. However, that many resistant varieties are not yet available and so vigilance is required. There are various options for limiting the consequences of a breakthrough, among other things through proper positioning of plants in combination with the use of small amounts of pesticides to limit the environmental impact, says Pacilly. In addition, growing resistant varieties with multiple resistance genes reduces the risk of susceptibility to potato blight. ● Computer models give new insight into sustainable phytophthora control Potato World 2018 • number 4 9 Pagina 8

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