Increasing food security in areas that are hard to access. This is one of the ideas behind an important potato innovation by HZPC: hybrid potato breeding.
This innovation has been under development for many years. And now it's time for the next step.
Seed potatoes from hybrid potatoes grow successfully on the well-known 'ridges' and now also in so-called 'beds'. Flower bulbs are grown in this type of bed too.
Countries that lie far from the coast may find it hard to source seed potatoes. To supply these countries with the healthy food they need, we are working on potatoes that grow from seeds; traditionally, potatoes grow from tubers. Growing potatoes from seed can be achieved thanks to hybrid potato breeding.
What is a hybrid potato?
Ad Vrolijk, project leader for hybrid potatoes at HZPC:
“A hybrid potato is a combination of two inbred strains that create a uniform product. The ultimate tuber looks exactly the same as a traditional potato, but there are a few big differences in terms of characteristics.”
“The biggest difference is that we can grow hybrid potatoes from a tuber and also from a seed. Another difference is that the breeder has greater influence on the characteristics that are present in the hybrid.”
Quicker resistance to diseases
Because breeders have a greater impact on a hybrid potato’s characteristics, we can make the variety resistant to disease more quickly.
Sometimes within just four to five years. With traditional breeding, it would take ten years longer.
And, because we have the option with hybrid potatoes to implement changes to a variety more quickly, we can adapt to fulfil customer requirements more rapidly too.
From 'ridge' to 'bed'
HZPC is now taking a significant step in terms of hybrid potato innovation. Whereas in the previous step, we planted the potato plants on the well-known 'ridges' in the fields, now it is time to conduct tests in so-called 'beds'.
These developments go hand-in-hand with important advantages; we can cultivate many more plants per square metre in beds. We also have more control over the size of the harvested tuber.
Ultimately, when the seeds are strong enough, we will sow them straight into the beds and this will make hybrid potato breeding even more efficient.
Seed potatoes will be the basis of potato growing for decades to come
HZPC does not expect hybrid potatoes to replace the traditional potato growing process in the short term; it will be at least 2030 before we can deliver a tailor-made potato.
The number of markets where there is a demand for hybrid potatoes will also be initially more limited than it is for traditional.
“Growing potatoes from seed should be seen as a niche because traditional potato growing from a tuber has specific advantages over growing from seeds.”
“However, for countries that struggle to access seed potatoes, a hybrid potato variety can offer huge positives for food security in terms of healthy food. And that is a fantastic development.”