PW-ACTUA Jan van Loon (76) obtains a doctorate on historiography about Dutch Genetics and Plant Pathology. This was the basis for a career in plant breeding. According to his curriculum vitae, he started his studies as a potato grower at Cebeco Handelsraad in Lelystad. He then switched to potato merchant Hettema Sons in Emmeloord as director of the breeding station until his retirement in 2001. Wealth of knowledge With so much accumulated knowledge at his disposal, Van Loon decided to dive into the history of potato breeding a On 15 May, 76-year-old potato breeder Jan van Loon obtained his doctorate at Wageningen University. A potato breeder who obtains a doctorate at Wageningen University at the age of 76. That’s what Jan van Loon, now with the titles ‘dr. ir.’ [doctor engineer], achieved on 15 May after defending his thesis ‘Through United Cooperation – The history of potato breeding in the Netherlands, from hobby to industry, 1888 – 2018’. ‘Normally you wish a new doctor a promising career. But at your age that’s not quite the right remark’, jokes doctoral supervisor Professor Edith Lammerts van Bueren immediately after Van Loon obtained his doctorate. However, his advanced age is not the only thing that comes up as a special feature during the thesis defence ceremony of breeder Van Loon. The members of the doctoral thesis committee point out, for example, the exceptional size of his thesis, which is no fewer than 407 pages. They also mention the uniqueness of the subject ‘the history of potato breeding’, ‘Where can you find something similar in the world’, says Professor Han Wiskerke unreservedly. The committee also points to the enthusiasm with which the breeder has worked on his thesis. ‘At a certain point, you even cut back your own breeding programme to give priority to your thesis that you had so much pleasure writing’, Lammerts van Bueren portrays Jan van Loon. And another remarkable phenomenon is the packed Auditorium, this time filled with family and breeder friends. ‘That doesn’t happen a lot’, Wiskerke knows from experience. CV For those who don’t yet know this ‘new’ scholar in the potato sector, Van Loon studied at the then Agicultural College in Wageningen from 1968 to early 1974. He graduated there with Plant Breeding and Agricultural Plant Cultivation as his main subjects and the two additional subjects of Smartphone as a mini-lab for early Researchers at North Carolina State University in the United States have developed a simple and afFordable test with which Phytophthora can be traced at an early stage with the help of the smartphone. A practical application of the mini-lab has now been made in the form of a prototype. No more waiting for the outcome of a laboratory analysis, but immediate results on your smartphone screen. This will be possible in the not too distant future thanks to the detection metre that researchers at North Carolina State University in Raleigh have developed for the smartphone, as can be read in a recent edition of the international scientific journal Nature Plants. It’s a smartphone case to which a compact test unit is attached, a mini-lab. The method is as follows. If you want to know whether there is latent Phytophthora in the potato crop, you can few years after his retirement. Professor Lammerts van Bueren, whom he knows well, suggested that he should create a thesis out of this plan and that is how it happened. In a 407-page reference book, Van Loon describes all the ins and outs of potato breeding from 1888 to 2018. While concluding his PhD in the Auditorium of Wageningen University, he summarises that three elements were the most important during that era, namely the widespread cooperation, the institutional infraNo more waiting for the outcome of a laboratory analysis, but immediate results on your smartphone screen. (Photo: Qingshan Wei) 10 Potato World 2019 • number 3 Pagina 9

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