The Netherlands has a world-leading position in potato breeding. This thesis analyses the factors that have influenced the development of the potato breeding industry in the Netherlands. The research focuses on the period from 1888, when the first crossings were carried out by small breeders, until the present. During that period of time a full potato breeding industry has developed. By means of literature research and interviews with various representatives from the potato breeding sector, the required data was collected to analyse the development of the Dutch potato breeding industry.
After the introduction and establishment of the potato in Europe at the end of the sixteenth century, it became clear in the nineteenth century that the crop suffers from degeneration. This created a great need for improvement of quality in varieties and seed potatoes. Although The Netherlands is not the first to start with quality improvement, it is efficient in implementing it, especially due to the close collaboration between all parties involved in the potato chain. There is a simultaneous and mutually influencing development in the relationship between the government and the potato breeding industry. The involvement of and support by the government leads to an expansion of research, institutional infrastructure and legislation. The variety trials testing value for cultivation and use, lead to the introduction of the List of Variety in 1924. Advising, coaching and encouraging breeders is combined in a committee from 1938 onwards. The breeding research expands as a result of this support, but also due to the (free) provision of starting material to practice-based and scientific research. The institutional infrastructure of research and variety breeding, supported by the government, peaks in the 1970s. From then on as a result of policy changes, the government increasingly withdraws from practice-based research and the commercial breeding companies take over.
From 1888 especially small breeders are active for the first 50 years. After the introduction of the Breeders' Decree in 1941 and its successor, the Seeds and Planting Act, in 1967 there is a strong development of breeding by companies. This is supported by the exclusive property rights (the monopoly) given to the breeder for his varieties to generate income through royalties. Continuously, even in the twenty-first century, new potato breeding companies arise. A unique collaboration between the commercial breeding companies and the small breeders functions to date, as a form of participatory breeding.
A large number of factors determine the strategy of breeding. In one respect, it is 'crop driven', an important factor to maintain the level of production, leading to a continuous flow of new varieties. Breeding strategies are primarily influenced by the many diseases in the potato, but also by developments in cultivation, breeding techniques and markets. On the other hand it is 'export driven', which is a powerful engine in the development of the seed potato sector.
The conclusion is that three elements have been the most important in the development of a strong potato breeding sector: the broad cooperation, the design of the institutional infrastructure and the remuneration of the breeding work through plant breeders' rights legislation.
The result is an ever-renewing diverse variety package. Currently, the potato breeding industry, with some 15 companies and 150 small breeders, is fully developed and well-organized, with a leading position in the world. Due to the increasing investments in breeding technologies, the relationships in cooperating within an initially broad and open platform are changing to a more closed corporate culture. In addition to joining forces for efficiency and market expansion, it will also be a challenge to maintain the broad diversity in the breeding sector and to keep the smaller companies involved.