Feeding 9.7 billion citizens worldwide

In 2050, there will have to be enough food for 9.7* billion people. It's a huge challenge. But the potato offers huge potential. Compared with maize, rice or wheat, the potato provides good, top-quality and affordable food in a short period of time. And it requires (a lot) less water.   

* source UN

Future-proof potato crops

The world of tomorrow will involve further tricky challenges. Climate change and land degradation (drought, heat, salinity), scarcity of fresh water, loss of biodiversity and the pressure on the available land will have a direct impact on worldwide food provision. This will require broadly-supported solutions. We see it as our task to make potato growing future-proof. We therefore aim to take the lead when it comes to developing new, robust potato varieties. Which, in the long term, will be free of emissions and residues. Continuous innovation, collaborations in the chain and sharing expertise are key to this process.

Innovating to improve the performance of varieties

Research & Development (R&D) is the driving force behind our operations. We have a broad network of trial field locations worldwide. We cover the most important climates and growing conditions in our varied trials. We aim to improve the performance of our varieties even further with ongoing research into the best degree of land use, irrigation and fertilisation per variety.
 
Read more about our Breeding programmes and Research & Development

Modern breeding techniques

We use the latest breeding technology. HZPC's potato varieties are developed without the use of genetic modification (non-GMO statement). This policy continues to apply for the development of new varieties.

We are aware that lots of scientific research into biotechnology is being undertaken. We are also aware that this science has the potential to tackle many of the issues which challenge the world. We monitor the possibilities that biotechnology offers from that perspective.

We also expect great things from mutating potatoes using a gene editing process, within the regular breeding norms. This innovation offers huge benefits. Thanks to these techniques, progress can be realised much more rapidly than with breeding, particularly in the area of disease resistance. Unfortunately, Europe has implemented restrictive legislation in relation to this, Innovations will progress more rapidly outside the European Union.

Other new breeding techniques, such as influencing available genes and CIS-genesis (the addition of exclusive variety-specific genes) will also be limited by legislation.

Nevertheless, wide-ranging political and social discussions, regulation and acceptance of such new technology by our stakeholders will always be decisive in how we work.
 

What we aim to achieve

In 2018/2019, a working group was created within the breeding department to focus on the development of new varieties whereby yield is maximised/assured, with less input. This working group set the following aims in 2019:

  • Preventing crop losses and the reduction of pesticides:
    a - 75% of all varieties that are introduced are resistant to Phytophthora (late blight)
    and PVY (Potato virus Y) by 2030.
    b - Improving Fusarium (dry rot) resistance by 20 points (from 67 to 87) in 2024 for newly introduced varieties.
  • Improving G. pallida resistance (potato cyst nematodes): from 74% to 95% for G.Rostochiensis and from 7% to 30% for Pallida by 2030 for newly introduced varieties.
  • Improving the storage score by increasing the dormancy period by 20 points, from 63 to 83 points, by 2024 for newly introduced varieties.
  • Developing a breeding index for Rhizoctonia tolerance in 2024.
  • Developing a breeding index for Erwinia tolerance in 2030.
  • Developing an insight into which mechanisms can influence abiotic stress tolerance (drought, heat, nitrogen, salinity) in 2024.

 

Resistance reduces the need for pesticides

Potato varieties that are less susceptible to diseases can cope with fewer pesticides. This reduces the impact on the environment and ensures a good yield. Thanks to the progress we are making in improving our breeding technology using marker technology and hybrid breeding, we are more capable than ever of managing the characteristics we wish to retain.
 

Increase in resistant varieties

Growers are already working with our improved varieties, such as Innovator, the fries variety with Pallida resistance (potato fatigue - AM). The high-yield traditional variety Allison is also completely resistant to potato fatigue. During the Potato days in 2018 and 2019, we presented eight new promising (candidate) varieties with  AM-resistance for both ABC and DE. One example is Alcander (Crisps) as well as the young fries variety Cardyma, which offers resistance to diverse forms of wart disease. Recently, new Phytophthora resistant varieties such as Muse (Retail Fresh) have also been introduced.

Like many other varieties that are being introduced to the market, these Phytophthora resistant varieties have just one ‘lock’ on the door, i.e. a resistant gene. However, we are striving to realise our target in 2030 of ensuring all varieties have at least two resistant genes, ensuring that their resistance is harder to crack.

As well as AM and Phytophthora (late blight), there are increasing problems with PVY, Fusarium and Black scurf. These diseases can be tackled effectively using chemicals. However, the use of these chemicals does not offer any certainty for the future. That is why we must develop new varieties that are resistant or tolerant to these diseases. There are tests for PVY and Fusarium so we can change tack quite rapidly, however, very little is known about Black scurf tolerance or resistance.
 

Scores for current varieties versus varieties in the future

         
  Fusarium
(dryrot)
Dormancy period RO1
(potato fatigue)
PA2/3
         
Current varieties 66.8 63 74% 6.8%
         
Newly varieties under development 71.5 69.2 93% 11.2%
         

 

Improving storage

By increasing the dormancy period, potatoes can be stored for longer and the use of germination inhibitors can be reduced.

An example of this is Triple7 for the crisps industry or Camelia in the Traditional sector. The variety Alverstone Russet has a longer dormancy period and retains its quality during storage at lower temperatures. The seed potatoes can be stored at a higher temperature for the seed (potato) grower, resulting in lower energy consumption (less cooling required). In 2018/2019, we began focussing on selecting varieties with a good dormancy period. In this context, we have concentrated on the Retail Fresh, French Fries and Crisps sectors. By 2024, we expect the score to have improved by 20 points.
 

The potato's water footprint

As well as preventing crop losses and reducing pesticides, we are also focussing on the potato's water footprint.

Prof. Dr. Eng. Arjen Hoekstra, professor of water management at the University of Twente, developed the 'water footprint' concept, a model which provides an understanding of the volume of water required for producing products and services. The average worldwide ‘water footprint’ for potatoes is 287 litres/kg. This is significantly lower than wheat or rice.

Average worldwide water consumption for other crops and production:
 

Source: www.waterfootprint.org (Mekonnen, M.M. and Hoekstra ,A.Y.)

HZPC is also developing varieties which can provide a good yield with less (fresh) water. Drought trials have shown that traditional varieties such as Farida and Sababa can realise good yields in dry conditions and also generate extra yields when more water becomes available.  Alongside drought, other abiotic stress factors will become increasingly common.
 

Development of a measurement method to determine sustainability indicators for different varieties

We are busy developing sustainability indicators. Various tests and trials have been developed for this purpose:

  • Watersafe trial (drought trials)
  • Disease and resistance tests
  • Salt-proof
  • Heat-proof