Can hybrid potatoes change the international potato industry?

A hybrid potato version might make a huge difference, especially in the agricultural regions of Africa. But it could also play a major role in the transition to sustainable agriculture in the West. On Friday 2 June, a book entitled ‘Impact of hybrid potato: the future of hybrid potato from a systems perspective’ was presented at a Wageningen symposium.

The book is the final result of a NWO-funded research project entitled ‘Responsible Innovation in Dutch Potato Breeding (Potarei)’. The project partners were Wageningen University & Research (WUR), the Rathenau Institute, the University of Groningen and Solynta. In the book, the researchers write about the technical innovations behind the hybrid potato and how small farmers can be provided access to suitable starting material.

Hybrid breeding will allow potato varieties with new characteristics to be grown, such as varieties that are resistant to certain diseases, and so reduce the need for pesticides. Using hybrid seed as a starting material for potato cultivation will make breeding such varieties much quicker and more efficient.

Paul Struik, project leader of Potarei and WUR professor of crop physiology: “Hybrid potatoes could revolutionise the potato sector, particularly in low and middle-income countries. The hybrid potato will have the most impact on yields in remote and inaccessible agricultural regionals. With hybrid potatoes, we expect to be able to respond much faster to farmers’ needs, such as resistance to the dreaded potato disease Phytophthora. But we will also be able to develop hybrid varieties that are more resistant to climate change.”


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