Jan-Erik Geersing, Geersing Potato Specialist/Caithness Potatoes, Emmeloord: ‘All our attention is focused on Phytophthora, which won’t surprise anyone in the industry.’

Jan Erik Geersing

‘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 virus-resistant 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 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.’

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