To continually obtain new varieties with improved characteristics, it is important to constantly enrich the genetic basis of the parent plant collection. These parent plants are used for variety breeding. We call this process of maintaining the parent plant collection 'pre-breeding’. This form of breeding results in plants with new characteristics (we refer to these plants as parents), which can then be used for crossing in the variety breeding program. These parent plants are not suitable themselves to be developed into a new variety, but the final cross with a good potato plant gives us high expectations for their descendants.
The source of new characteristics, such as resistance to fungal and soil diseases and their processing suitability, is found in primitive potato species or wild potatoes from countries in Central and South America. A large collection is maintained by the gene bank ‘Centrum Genetische Bronnen Nederland' (CGN) in Wageningen. On request of companies such as Agrico, plant material from this collection is made available.
Each year we start with approximately 35,000 first generation clones in the field. After four years of selection, approximately 20 of these seedlings will be considered good enough to serve as crossing parents in the breeding program for varieties.
The facilities at Agrico Research
Agrico Research has over 2,000 m2 of greenhouses for crossings and production of the first generation clones from true potato seed. There is also a laboratory facility where screening for chip, crisp and cooking quality and testing for disease resistance takes place. DNA-marker technology is also used to provide us with more information about the genetic properties of a potato variety.
On the 96 hectares of arable land at Agrico Research, approximately 16 hectares are used as trial fields each year. Another 7 hectares of trial fields are available at other sites in the Netherlands. We also have trial fields abroad so that the new varieties can be tested under all types of conditions.
Agrico Research co-operates with a number of other companies and individuals in the area of breeding, pre-breeding as well as in applied research. Potato breeding in the Netherlands has traditionally been an activity of affiliated, individual hobby breeders. These passionate hobby breeders are usually farmers who grow seed potatoes and combine their work with potato breeding activities. As well as these breeders, professional companies have also appeared over the years. These companies also engage in variety breeding in collaboration with Agrico Research.
Agrico Research cooperates with 35 affiliated breeders and six professional breeding companies in the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Norway and Austria. Affiliated breeders sometimes produce their own crosses and raise the first generation of seedlings in their own greenhouse, or they obtain seeds and / or seedling tubers from Agrico Research. They then select the seedlings on their own trial fields over a period of three years. From the fourth until the ninth year, the breeding clones are evaluated in central trials by Agrico Research. Any new varieties that are created by one of the associated breeders' breeding programs will be registered by Agrico and produced commercially.
Agrico Research also participates in research projects and collaborates with other organisations. Read about some examples on the projects page.