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Unnecessary to inform consumers even more according to Peter Dijk (Agrico)

“Double the yield with resistant potato varieties

“Within three years, we want to fill at least half of our area with resistant potatoes,” says Peter Dijk on behalf of Agrico. The company from Emmeloord, the Netherlands, currently grows organic consumption potatoes on a total of 500 hectares. “Potato varieties resistant to the potato disease Phytophthora are growing on an ever-increasing surface.” Regarding yields, Agrico is very satisfied about these varieties: “If the fungus shows up early in the season, it doesn’t make much difference if there’s a resistant or non-resistant variety on the field. If the fungus shows up late in the season, the resistant variety scores very high so far. With resistant varieties, we even realise a double yield sometimes.”

Peter Dijk and Marix Wilms at the office in Emmeloord.

Peter says they can look back on a good potato year. “The late summer was quite wet, but the organic potatoes were harvested on time. We had resistant potatoes on 30 per cent of our total organic area this time, and regarding yield, these really stood out.” For the future of resistant organic potatoes, pricing plays an essential part according to him. “We have to realise a more acceptable price level for resistant organic potatoes. A higher yield is necessary for that. We have the resistant varieties, but now growers have to start profiting from them. At least quality won’t be the problem.”

Agrico has been investing in the development of Phytophthora resistant potato varieties for 30 years now. “This is a very long-term project. It takes 15 years before a variety can be made commercial. The trickiest part is that it will only become clear if it works in practice. Carolus currently does best. The characteristic eye on this potato has been widely accepted now. Alouette also does well, although this red-skinned variety still needs some more promotional attention.”

Carolus potatoes.

According to Peter, it’s unnecessary to inform consumers about resistant varieties even more. “Consumers shouldn’t be exhausted too much by all sorts of details and additional information.” Does he think it’s feasible to eventually only find resistant organic potatoes on supermarket shelves? “That is definitely a possibility. What’s more, in some segments this has already happened. For example, the largest supermarket in the Netherlands often only has Carolus on their shelves. The most important thing is that it should just be right, both for the farmer and for the consumer. The potatoes have to be tasty and appealing. I don’t think the problem will be getting on the shelves.” It’s more difficult to get them abroad, according to Peter. “Regulations surrounding the use of copper, the annex and similar differ per country. For international trade it would be much easier if the playing field was evened out.”

Growth within the group
The number of companies transitioning was more than doubled in 2016. Peter says they haven’t noticed much of that yet with Agrico. “Many companies are switching from an economical point of view. For us, growers and farmers first try other products, potatoes are a relatively risky production. Something resistant varieties have a positive influence on as well.” Peter says Agrico is growing within their own growers’ group. “With resistant varieties we can achieve higher yields. That way, we realise more volume on less land. The question mostly remains whether we can sell it all. There has to be room on the market, and then we’ll look into whether we can continue growing.” 

In August this year, various parties in the sector signed the covenant ‘Accelerated transition to robust potato varieties.’ With it, the sector united against the destructive potato disease Phytophthora. Agrico is one of the companies that signed. “This is an important step, and because of it, there’s more positive attention for resistant varieties. I do wonder what else will happen. I hope processors will also support the covenant in future. No attention is paid to that now. I’m curious to see how this will develop. Looking to the future, more volume in crisp and chips potatoes is necessary. This really has to continue increasing. However, I’m confident that we’ll succeed in this with the varieties we have and the ones we still have in the pipeline.” 

For more information:
Peter Dijk
Duit 15
8305 BB Emmeloord, NL
T: +31 (0)527 693 515

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