WUR studies wild potatoes for new pest-free potato varieties

Published on
May 14, 2020

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is to study wild potato varieties for resistance to a wide range of potato-diseases and plagues. This broad approach should yield breeding material that can be used to develop disease-free potato varieties capable of contributing to a sustainable and circular potato production. The research is commissioned by Holland Innovative Potato (HIP) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Dutch acronym: LNV).

Potato closes cycle

The main challenge we face in the coming decades is gaining access to sufficient arable land and sweetwater. The potato could have a crucial role in solving this challenge, as it is a very efficient crop for food and industrial production in terms of land and water use. Furthermore, the potato is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and nutrients, thus contributing to a healthy diet. New breeding and processing techniques have become available over the past years, making the potato an important crop in meeting the demand for sustainable production of high-quality food.

Reducing chemical pest control

Potato crops are under continuous threat of diseases and plagues. Currently, chemical pesticides are used to retain sufficient yield to meet the demand for potatoes. Much effort has been made over the past years to develop varieties resistant to the leading disease in potatoes, which is caused by Phytophthora. This will lead to a decline in the use of pesticides against this disease. Fewer chemical agents combined with increasing extremes in temperatures and rainfall, will, however, lead to an increase in diseases and plagues.

Colorado potato beetle

Photo: Colorado potato beetle

Resistance in wild varieties

To date, little attention has been paid to these other diseases and plagues, which are caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, nematodes and insects. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has been commissioned by HIP to study wild potato varieties for resistance to these pathogens. The preliminary study has already yielded some usable varieties. These resistant potato varieties will be further investigated by WUR and will subsequently be used by breeding companies affiliated with HIP to develop new breeds. Achieving a sustainable, circular crop by cultivating disease-free varieties is the ultimate ambition.‚Äč

Pectobacterium brasilensis

Photo: Bacteria Pectobacterium brasilensis

Holland Innovative Potato

The Netherlands is leading in breeding, cultivation, production systems and processing of potatoes. In order to maintain this position while fitting in with the circular economy, Holland Innovative Potato (HIP) was established in 2017. Its goal is to collaborate on researching sustainable potato chains. Members of HIP include enterprises and organisations in the field of breeding, trade and processing of potatoes. Funding is provided by the HIP members, the Ministry of LNV and the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Wageningen University & Research is HIP's leading research partner.