Field-testing of mildew-resistant potato to start in 2017
Tuesday, 18 August 2015
The first field trials of the mildew-resistant Bintje potato will take place in 2017 or 2018, according to a statement on Monday issued by Ghent university, ILVO (Agricultural Research Institute) and VIB (Flemish Biotechnology Institute), calling it an exciting prospect for producers and processors across the country. Mildew negatively affects the Belgian economy to the tune of an estimated 55 million euros each year. The three organisations have revealed the results of scientific trials conducted in Flanders and the Netherlands in 2011 and 2012. The trials show that when attempting to create varieties that are resistant to Phytophthora (mildew), it is essential to combine several different genes (3-5) which show some form of natural resistance to the disease. In this way, the scientists claim it is possible to create a mildew-resistant strain that retains all the variety’s other qualities.
Mildew is the main problem facing producers today, says Luc Rooryck, agronomist at Lutosa, fields having to be treated between 12 and 20 times a year. “If scientists find a variety that is not only resistant to mildew but that also retains all its other qualities, we will certainly be taking notice.” He estimates the cost of mildew treatment, labour included, at no less than fifty euros per hectare per treatment.
Mildew grows mainly during periods of heavy rain and high temperatures. Growers have been lucky so far this year, which has been “very dry” and very sunny, and have needed to spray the fields only a dozen times, said Luke Rooryck.
The industry is watching the progress of the research very closely. Belgium is the world’s largest exporter of frozen potatoes.