Potato late blight (Phytophthora infestans) is still a major problem for organic potato growers and although 2013 has been a relatively blight-free year, the devastating outbreaks of 2012 brought home the need for resistant potato varieties for the organic sector.
In 2009 the Bioimpuls programme was launched, in the Netherlands, to give more priority to breeding organic, Phytophthora-resistant varieties. In this 10-year programme, wild potato species are crossed with cultivated potato to develop new resistant varieties. Although this classical breeding strategy is a long road, the advantage is that you can select for multiple traits along the way. They have produced a brochure which presents the results of the first four years of the programme which can be downloaded here.
Another output from the project is the publication of The Potato Breeding Manual, a unique manual for potato breeding with a special chapter on the requirements for organic varieties. This manual is aimed at potato breeders, growers and advisers, but is also of interest to consumers wanting to find out more about the background of varieties.
The Louis Bolk Institute, alongside the Organic Research Centre is a partner of the collaborative EU project CO-FREE. As part of this, pilot projects are set up to develop the market for new resistant potato varieties. Market development for new, resistant organic varieties also contributes to European policy to achieve copper-free organic production systems.
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