TRADE AND MARKET I NG Closed potato market in Norway keeps the local potato chain afloat Norwegian market is closed for the import of seed potatoes Norway has always dreaded the introduction of diseases such as brown rot, which is why the government has banned the import of seed potatoes. The Norwegian seed potato sector is based on its own propagation. This is now a local system based on the production of mini tubers. The producer is Overhalla Klonavlssenter. Ware potato growers are not obliged to purchase new seed every year and most growers replace about 15 percent of their seed annually. The officially-recognised Overhalla Klonavlssenter mini tuber centre is located in Overhalla, a three-hour drive from the airport in Trondheim. At the site, with its ten greenhouses, director Ole Anders Viken explains that they use two different production systems. The oldest system takes place partly in a greenhouse built in 1996 and partly in plastic tunnels. Three years ago, the institute invested in a hydroponics system from the Dutch company Living Foods, in which the mini tubers develop in the dark, humid air and are harvested over a longer period of time. To save space, the trays can be alternately hoisted up and down. This allows the staff to ‘milk’ the plants in the trays making optimum use of the space in the greenhouse. Looking at the future, Viken and his colleague Anita Barlien expect a lot from this hydroponics system, because the tubers germinate much better. The institute produces around 300,000 mini tubers every year. Of these, 30 percent are grown in the hydroponics system and 70 percent in peat. The market price is between 1.10 and 1.60 euros per mini tuber, depending on production. They have around fifty varieties in stock. Long-storage mini tubers ‘If we harvest more than twenty tubers per plant in the hydroponics system, it is cheaper than growing in peat’, says Viken. ‘With hydroponics, we can realise more production in a short period of time. However, we can’t produce all year round, because we can only use natural light. Artificial light is too expensive. Every year, we start in early March with mini-tuber cultivation. After harvesting from the hydroponics system, we leave the tubers in the light for a while. The reason is that as the tubers becoming greener, the lenticels start closing. This improves the quality of the mini tubers after the long storage period. They are then put in a storage unit in which we store them at a temperature of 3.7 degrees Celcius. Early harvesting of mini tubers does mean that we have to store them for more than a year before we can plant them.’ Looking at the future, Ole Anders Viken (l) and his colleague Anita Barlien expect a lot from this hydroponics system, because the tubers germinate much better. Increasing demand for seed potatoes Looking at production, Viken tells us that they have a guaranteed sales outlet for 170,000 mini tubers for their biggest customer, the Graminor breeding station. Partly for the breeding work and partly for building up new varieties. The remainder is sold to seed potato growers. ‘We’ve noticed that the demand for mini tubers in the seed potato sector is increasing,’ says Barlien, ‘because the demand for a better quality seed is growing. To encourage this, we prefer to shorten the cut-off system in order to improve the quality. Now is the time to do this, because the scale increase in consumption cultivation is progressing rapidly. These growers often have no storage for seed potatoes, which offers opportunities for seed potato growers.’ Over the past ten years, the area for seed potatoes has increased from 800 hectares to over 900 hectares, the turnover is growing even faster. While 7,500 tons were traded in 2008, today the limit of 10,000 tons has already been exceeded. In order to accelerate this growth, Glorvigen believes it is very important that the quality is really good, which in her opinion only works if the cut-off system is reduced. ‘There aren’t enough high-quality seed potatoes 26 Potato World 2020 • number 1 Pagina 25

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