During the Potato Variety Days 2021, we asked participating breeding companies about the key focus of their breeders in their search for new varieties. In this blog post you may read the answer given by Gerard Bovée, Director/Co-owner of Plantera, Marknesse (NL):
The content of this blog originates from the article on the Potato Variety Days 2021 published in PotatoWorld magazine 2022/01.
By Zindziwe Janse, Jaap Delleman and Leo Hanse.
A big smile appears on Gerard Bovée’s face as soon as he is asked the question about their focus in breeding. He doesn’t have to think about it for long, his answer slips out in one breath. ‘If there’s one thing we’ve kept focusing our attention on over the years, it’s that the potatoes should at least be tasty.’
‘I know, that’s a difficult quality to determine, because what one person likes someone else may hate. But by constantly keeping our finger on the pulse on this point, we at least ensure that everything that falls within the category of “tasteless bite” doesn’t end up in our range of varieties. That’s one’, Bovée summarises succinctly. ‘Then come the other spearheads’, he continues. ‘In all our crossings, at least one of the parents must have Phytophthora and/or a virus resistance. Everything else, boiling, chip or crisp quality, pallida resistance or whatever, is tailored to suit your needs. So yes, if you ask me, taste is at the top or our list. I have to admit, it’s rarely a request that the customer comes up with first, but we do notice that our tastier varieties are the most successful. And I’m not just talking about table potatoes, it’s also important for chip and crisp potatoes. If a variety has a good flavour, it can be used in many ways. I’ll give you an example. We have the Meera variety in our range. That’s actually been selected as a crisp potato. This variety is now strongly on the up and up in Italy. However, not in the form of crisps, but simply as a floury fresh table potato, because its distinct taste has suddenly caught the eye of chefs and consumers. And that’s what often happens with potatoes that are simply delicious. You’re also asking about the customer and how you figure out what’s the best choice for them? The trick here is, above all know your own package of varieties. Some trading companies offer such a wide range that even the suppliers themselves no longer see the wood for the trees. When you know a lot about a variety, with a few adjustments, for example to the planting distance or to fertilisation, you can sometimes give it a different use than what it was originally selected for. So quantity is not always better. A comprehensive range also makes your package more flexible. Moreover, with a deeper knowledge of your varieties, you can help your customer better in cultivation and marketing. To best summarise our focus on breeding in a single variety, for me that’s still the Vitabella for now and for many years to come. This is a potato that doesn’t merely consist of some basic type of paste, but is very tasty, widely marketable as a table and (home) French-fry potato and can be grown sustainably. Due to its high Phytophthora resistance, the variety is suitable for both organic and conventional production. Its yield may not be the highest, but by applying only a few sprayings, instead of twelve or thirteen, you save a lot of money on pesticide. All in all, you can achieve a very profitable crop with this variety.’
Want to keep reading about the Potato Variety Days?
In the run-up to the event we published an e-book that you can download here!
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