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Bio Impuls: Organic Potato Breeding

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Innovations in potato breeding

The umbrella programme Bio-Impuls  is aimed at improving organic potato varieties. It covers breeding as well as crop protection, harvesting, storage, market introduction and knowledge exchange. The Louis Bolk Institute coordinates the Bio-Impuls Breeding Project (2009-2013). The objective of this particular project is to develop new, disease resistant potato varieties through innovative breeding methods. Within this project we work closely together with Wageningen University and Research Centre, commercial breeders and farmer-breeders. The project is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ), as part of their "Green Breeding" programme.

The objective: organic varieties

Disease resistant varieties are crucial for the organic sector, but they are not sufficiently available. Organic growers are not allowed to use chemical pesticides to control the common potato disease Phytophthora infestans (potato blight). The present method, burning off the foliage, reduces both the yield and the quality of the tubers. Within the Bio-Impuls potato breeding programme, researchers, growers and commercial breeders work closely together to develop new varieties for the organic market. These varieties should be disease resistant, be suitable for low-input production, and produce good quality potatoes.More information on this project can be found in the most recent Bio-Impuls movie (in Dutch)

New knowledge immediately applicable

Part of the project is to collect and disseminate knowledge and experience of farmer-breeders involved in organic potato breeding. This has already resulted in three Potato Breeding Courses organised by the Louis Bolk Institute. Furthermore, the Louis Bolk Institute recently has published the Handbook for Farmer-breeders,  and in the Potato Breeding Manual (Sept. 2013)

Bioimpuls and DURPH

In addition to classical breeding methods for developing new organic potato varieties, there are other techniques for building resistance to Phythophthora (late blight). From the Bioimpuls project we regularly give public presentations together with DURPH, a Wageningen UR research project using genetic modification to build Phytophthora resistance into existing potato varieties, using potato genes only. As genetic modification is a subject of public debate, it is useful to present this technique alongside classical 'organic' breeding as two ways to achieve the same goal. Watch the video of the most recent public presentation (in Dutch, August 2013).

Project leader

Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren

Plant Breeding