Jeroen van Soesbergen, Plantera, Marknesse: ‘I think that, at the moment, we’re focusing most on climate change in our 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 1 to 4, wart disease physio 1 and 2/6, an 8 for Phytophthora in the haulm and a 7 for abnormal tuber formation and also an 8 for Y virus. So it’s clear that we’re focusing most on these varieties.’