Lessons for British growers from Dutch experience

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Close cooperation between government, agriculture and researchers drove growers to rapidly adopt PCN (Potato Cyst Nematode)-resistant potato varieties following an environmental crisis in the Netherlands.

Delegates at AHBD’s Agronomist Conference heard how the popularity of a particular variety among Dutch growers led to pollution of drinking water: the variety – Bintje – was widely used in the Netherlands in the early 20th century despite having no resistance to PCN. This prompted growers to rely heavily on chemical fumigant nematicides that leached into the water supply.

Following a sustained campaign by environmental groups, including Greenpeace, and the increased availability of varieties resistant to Globodera pallida, breeders were able to move away from Bintje.

The presentation, by Leendert Molendijk, Senior Nematologist at Wageningen Research was one of two speeches highlighting the importance of varietal selection as a part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM); showing agronomists how growers can combat pests and diseases with a rapidly shrinking chemical toolkit.

Following Leendart, Graeme Byers of British crisp and snack manufacturer Tayto Group said he was confident the UK potato industry could wean itself off common varieties and adopt those with better resistance. Graeme called for greater cooperation between breeders and processors to enable larger scale processing trials of new varieties earlier in the breeding process.

* For a full report, see the January edition of Potato Review.