CU LTIVATION AND TECHNOLOGY Variety Presentation Days 2019: main objectives in breeding vary widely ! Jan-Erik Geersing, Geersing Potato Specialist/Caithness Potatoes, Emmeloord: ‘All our attention is focused on Phytophthora, which won't surprise anyone in the industry.’ ‘All our attention is focused on Phytophthora, which won't surprise anyone in the industry. I myself have been busy with my own breeding work for fifteen years now. The trial fields are located at the organic farm of Joos and Marien Poppe in the village of Nagele in the Noordoostpolder region. Breeding Phytophthora-resistant varieties is not only necessary for organic farming, but just as much for conventional farming. In fact, in organic farming, Phytophthora hasn’t been the most important challenge for some years now. It’s now viruses. In the organic sector, attention has been focused on solutions in this area for some time. For example, we already have a virusresistant variety available called Marcella. So, as you can imagine, visitors from conventional farming are now all rushing to the one tray holding that variety. But this is just a small digression, now to get back to your question. Phytophthora is our main breeding aim. This started for organic farming and after initiatives such as the bio-covenant, it’s also gradually rolling out to the conventional sector. There are currently ten truly Phytophthora-resistant varieties available. We have three of these, one of which is our own variety, the Cammeo, and there are two French varieties which we market here under licence. Interest is growing rapidly, which can also be seen in the increase in the area. This year, we’re going from 16 to 35 hectares of seed potatoes with the Cammeo. And the momentum will remain in the years to come. What we see is that the potato acreage in organic cultivation is increasing again after years of decline, partly due to the availability of varieties that are resistant to Phytophthora, nematodes and virus. In addition, there’s currently a strong resistance in society to the use of chemical products, and the conventional potato farmers are experiencing ‘Phytophthora resistance is maintained for much longer by also spraying resistant varieties a number of times per growing season.’ the consequences. This pressure can be eased quite a bit with the cultivation of Phytophthora-resistant varieties. This doesn’t mean that we should stop spraying, it’s better not to do this. In fact, ! Phytophthora resistance is maintained for much longer by also spraying resistant varieties a number of times per growing season. I expect this will become normal practice fairly soon.’ Jeroen van Soesbergen, Plantera, Marknesse: ‘I think that, at the breeding work. ‘The question is clear, but the answer isn’t that easy to give. I think that, at the moment, we’re focusing most on climate change in our breeding work. Take this wet autumn, for example, or the past dry summer. What that meant for potato growing was an increase in soil-related diseases, drought stress and abnormal formation of shoots and tubers. We breeders are then asked: “What would help?” As I see it, it would be very helpful if we could reduce the harvest risk by bringing the harvest period forward. This means that we’ll have to focus our breeding activities on varieties that mature earlier, have an acceptable high yield and, at the same time, a long storage time using the least possible sprouting inhibitors, because climate change is also an issue where crop protection is concerned. Next year, we’re already facing a ban on Chlorine-IPC and Reglone. Breeding for early maturity is not the most difficult part of the process. What is difficult, however, is to combine this with the various resistances that many growers also want. In addition to the reality of climate change, we also have to deal with the reality of the increasing virus pressure. Until a few years ago, we never had to worry about that in breeding, now it’s priority number one. So what we’re doing at the moment is translating as many of the problems above into a variety that can best deal with them per segment. Fortunately, when it comes to resistances, we’re well on the way and it’s a matter of stacking when it comes to adding the most recently desired characteristics. The best example of this is the Vitabella variety. It combines that early maturity with a high yield. In addition, it already has a stack of resistances such as Potato Cyst Nematode Ro 18 Potato World 2020 • number 1 What is your most important focus in your breeding work at the moment ? Pagina 17

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