Potato from seed opens new markets TRADE AND MARKET I NG ‘RAPID GENETIC PROGRESS DRIVES US’ Director Gerard Backx of HZPC took his Audience back to the origin of the hybrid potato. ‘What drives us to develop hybrids is the rapid genetic progress. If you look at sugar beet and maize, hybridisation has made a huge increase in yield possible. The potato is lagging far behind with a 0.1 percent yield per year compared to sugar beet, where the yield increase is 2 percent per year. When will the potato follow? I’ve always wondered about that. For a long time there was the barrier that there could be no self-pollination with diploid lines. Since the discovery of a gene from wild relatives in the late 90s, it’s now possible. This enables us to develop a completely new crop at diploid level. With two sets of genes, we can breed much more specifically and I believe that this can also result in a strong potato. We have diploid lines that are just as productive as tetraploid potatoes and, on an annual basis, we’re spending millions of euros to develop them further. Because we can now primarily combine lines, we also have a high degree of certainty about the outcome.’ He expects the first results of this work within three years. ‘We’ll launch a commercial hybrid variety in 2022 or 2023. This will not yet be a top variety, but it will be good enough to bring healthy starting material to new markets. With a potato from seed, our genetics can go to areas where no tubers are allowed. You could possibly multiply one or two more generations locally through tubers. The advantage of a tuber is and will always be that you quickly have a robust plant.’ Even if in the long term, hybrids should replace the classically-bred potatoes, there will still be advantages to tubers, he is convinced. ‘We may be able to sow in the field, and the number of generations may be reduced, but the cultivation of basic seed potatoes won’t simply disappear. ‘We’ll launch a commercial hybrid variety in 2022 or 2023’, reveals Gerard Backx. The question as to whether hybrids will ensure that varieties will succeed each other more quickly is answered in the affirmative. ‘Just as with other crops, you’ll change varieties faster. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to get to know a variety all over again. Because that will often be about improvements to existing varieties. For example, it’ll become possible to add a resistance to an existing variety fairly quickly. ‘FRISIAN GROWERS WANTED’ The forty members of the Groningen Seed Potato Academy form an active club. The growers exchange knowledge among themselves, go on excursions and enrich their knowledge by organising thematic meetings and running experiments. ‘During this growing season, among other things, we’re going to do tests with planting out tubers that grew at different depths in the 2018 season. We’re curious to see whether there are noticeable physiological differences and how they affect the new crop’, says chairman Hilko Bos. The growers also want to carry out trials with the use of worm manure. Furthermore, the group has its own tools, such as a penetrologger and an electronic potato, so they can to carry out measurements, sometimes with the The forty members of the Groningen Seed Potato Academy form an active club. help of students. ‘We decide for ourselves which subjects we give a higher profile and notice that we can learn a great deal from each other. We’d really like to do that with even more growers. To broaden our horizons, we’d like to see seed potato growers from Friesland join us’, Bos says. Potato World 2019 • number 2 9 Pagina 8

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