It is widely reported in the Dutch press today that potato breeding company Solynta in the Netherlands has developed potato varieties that are resistant to potato late blight (Phytophthora). The varieties will be introduced to the public during a field day held by the company at its premises in Wageningen, the Netherlands later this week (Aug 23). Late blight is responsible for losses to farmers in the order of around € 10 billion worldwide, despite intensive use of pesticides. In the Netherlands, the cost for the almost ninety thousand potato growers is estimated at € 150 million according to figures released by Wageningen University. Phytophthora has thus far being able to evade successful resistance by most commercially produced potato varieties. Solynta’s director, Hein Kruyt, reportedly says his company is capable of breeding potato varieties with multiple disease resistance genes – as many as three, four or even more. He says Solynta has developed late blight resistant potato varieties with a “stable parental line”.
Professor Richard Visser of the University of Wageningen confirms that new potato varieties with multiple resistors have the potential to be long-term resistant. “The incorporation of multiple resistance genes in a single variety was always difficult for breeders, taking as long as fifteen years,” says Visser. “Because potato breeding takes so much time, the feared potato disease continued to be a step ahead of breeders”.
Solynta is expected to have another four to five years to go before farmers can grow these new resistant potatoes commercially. Thanks to Solynta’s new techniques – described by some as “unconventional”, it is said to be also easier to select other characteristics such as taste or suitability for a particular variety to be used for fries and chips.