The new organic table potato Cammeo from Dutch potato breeder Geersing was one of the eye-catchers at this year's Weuthen Potato Day. With this and other highly resistant and visually striking new registrations, the potato breeder has managed to open up the German market. Managing Director Jan-Eric Geersing spoke to us about the restructured variety program and longer-term developments in potato breeding.
Geersing's variety program has undergone a comprehensive redefinition in recent years. From a strong focus on easy-boiling British potato varieties, the emphasis was gradually shifted to yellow-fleshed, firm-cooking and, not least, Phytophthora-resistant potatoes for the German market.
Geersing: "Regarding the early, coarse-fleshed varieties, we do well with Camillo, but in the later range, yellow-fleshed potatoes are needed to gain a foothold in Germany. In the meantime, we have gotten the relatively new variety Peter Pan listed exclusively with Weuthen, and the French Tentation is also gaining ground. We presented the latest yellow potato variety for the first time at the Weuthen Potato Day."
Jan-Eric Geersing (right) and his team at this year's Weuthen Potato Day in Schwalmtal.
Modern varieties with high Phytophthora resistance
Currently, the organic table potato Cammeo in particular is in the spotlight. "In the German food sector, the variety is expected to be somewhat less popular due to its light yellow coloration. However, Cammeo is suitable for French fries and we see interesting sales opportunities in this segment in Germany in particular. What makes the variety stand out are in particular its visual characteristics with a smooth skin and its excellent Phytophthora resistance. Cammeo is currently one of the five varieties with the highest resistance," says Geersing.
Due to the early start of harvest and the low Phytophthora infestation, Geersing believes that particularly abundant organic yields will be achieved this year. With the high quotations in the conventional sector, the price difference will therefore be minimal. Despite sustainability concerns, the potato market, and thus breeding, remains sales-driven, he said. "However, this does not mean that Phytophthora-resistant varieties have not reversed the trend. On the contrary, especially in the organic sector, cultivation risks have decreased considerably and this has also led to the best varieties being able to be produced up to six weeks longer, even in a year characterized by Phytophthora."
Overall, Geersing does not expect a major organic boom. "Nevertheless, I expect that the conventional sector will also increasingly tend toward regenerative cultivation, which in turn will have a positive impact on the environmental impact of potato production. In my opinion, this structural change would also be the only viable way forward for the potato sector and also the reason why we are clearly dedicated to breeding Phytophthora-resistant varieties. What also speaks in favor of this breeding strategy is that the varieties can also cope in dry, warm countries. To convey the added value of this variety, we have labeled it #growingstrong."
Economy and ecology go hand in hand
The path taken will continue to be a fundamental part of Geersing's breeding strategy in the years to come. "Although sustainability is gaining importance in the potato sector, profitability is still extremely important. However, we see ourselves equipped for the future in this respect as well. In terms of yield and caliber, our table potatoes can keep up with competing, disease-susceptible varieties, while the high Phytophthora resistance offers additional benefits to growers. We have some catching up to do in terms of industrial varieties, although we already have interesting candidates in the pipeline in terms of baking color. We breeders will also have to somehow cope with climate conditions in the coming years, and by committing to highly resistant varieties at an early stage, we are already well advanced in that respect, too," Geersing concludes.