Colm McDonnel, IPM, Dublin (Ireland): ‘If you want to be successful in breeding, it’s especially important to have a vision of the future.
‘What we, as growers, always try to aim for is to focus our breeding on demands from the market. However, the problem is always that you can only answer new questions in eight to twelve years’ time, because it takes at least that long to develop a variety. Some issues have been around for a long time, such as Phytophthora and nematode resistance. If you’ve been in the breeding business for a long time, you’ve undoubtedly been working on it for many years and that’s also the case with IPM. But when it comes to suddenly emerging problems such as the recent virus issues, not every breeder has a readily-available answer. That’s the tricky part of our line of work. If you want to be successful in breeding, it’s especially important to have a vision of the future. Years ago, for example, we already realised that crop protection chemicals would be restricted in the EU-5 countries. We’re losing sprout inhibitors, pesticides, nematicides, fungicides and insecticides. There will be fewer and fewer of all these products available soon. So, one day, there’ll be a demand for varieties that can survive without these products. Climate change is another factor that we saw coming many years ago and which we started to address in our breeding work. The result of this is that we now have a list of new varieties that you can definitely call robust. They can take a beating when it comes to climate extremes and they also harbour the desired resistances that require less spraying. A still young variety that contains all these characteristics is our Buster. When I go through the rating list, I see, for example, a 9 for nematode resistance, a 5 and 8 for Phytophthora resistance and an excellent rating for taste. Furthermore, this variety is easy to grow and also provides plenty of tubers for the cultivation of seed potatoes. It’s quite a challenge to get this far with a variety, but it’s the type we have in mind at the moment.’