Sjefke Allefs, Agrico Research, Bant: ‘It’s imperative that we get decent virus resistance in our varieties.’

Sjefke Allefs

‘We’re currently paying a lot of attention to our Next Generation varieties, whereby Phytophthora resistance is an important characteristic. A ware variety we have high expectations of in this context is Levante. However, given the virus problems we have this season, we need to incorporate a decent resistance into our varieties for this. I think that the problems with viruses are mainly caused by the scaling up in seed potato cultivation, combined with a number of hot summers and favourable conditions for virus infections. This increase in scale is not reversible. That’s why it’s important to crossbreed virus resistance into varieties in order to keep seed potato cultivation reliable for the future. Traditionally, as commercial breeders, we were told that we shouldn’t do too much about virus resistance. The fact that a variety like Santé is immune to viruses turned out to be commercially undesirable. The variety didn’t degenerate enough in the sales areas. At the moment, however, it’s important that we increase the level of resistance, but we must stay away from immunity. This is technically possible, because there are intermediate gradations in resistance. We’re now investigating how genetics currently relates to virus-related problems that occur in practice. What we’re seeing is substantial variety differences. We already have markers for the major genes, but how the intermediate levels relate is not yet clear. It’s important to find this out, because it allows us to determine the virus resistance at an early stage. At the moment there’s still a lot of work to be done to establish good resistance figures. We have to plant new varieties between diseased plants, harvest the tubers and have them tested afterwards. This means that we only have a result that compares with the standard varieties once a year. These are rather laborious methods, which we’d like to speed up.’

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