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Sunny markets return for seed potatoes

The seed potato crop now covers almost 80,000 ha in North-West Europe

The main countries producing seed potatoes are the Netherlands with 40,180 ha (unchanged compared to 2015), 20,023 ha in France (+3.2%), 15,912 ha in Germany (-2.4%) and 2,257 ha in Belgium (-9.2%). Annual changes in the multiplication area indicate which variety is finding its place on the market or which is hardly moving. The chart gives the figures for the last 5 years for the main varieties by category.

Mid-early varieties gaining space

All the main varieties in the early segment are declining, while the mid-earlies are gaining space. Premiere is present in the 4 countries but comes second in the earlies ranking, behind Sinora, due to a sharp decline (21%) this year. Friselander, Anosta and Berber complete the top-5. In mid-earlies, Felsina (multiplied only in the Netherlands) is on the rise. Artemis (fresh market) is decreasing and Miranda remains steady. Processing factories are looking for fewer earlies and mid-earlies as they want to continue later and later into July with old crop tubers kept in high-performance storage facilities.

Varieties for seed export markets

This is a very competitive market where it is hard for new varieties to find a place. Spunta always leads the ranking thanks to demand from the whole Mediterranean basin (the South of Europe and North Africa), and this year has gained some hectares, rising to 8,000 ha in these 4 countries. Desiree, Kennebec and Jearly are increasingly produced less and less and replaced by a lot of varieties adapted to local growing and ware conditions. The European export trade is mainly towards the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.

Varieties for European fresh market

Annabelle dominates the firm flesh category (waxy potatoes) but is losing hectares for the second consecutive year. Charlotte (mainly multiplied in France) is increasing this year but has been on an up and down trend for the past 10 years. Hansa and Nicola are decreasing but still ahead of Allians. Jazzy is booming and has taken over the 6th place from Cilena which has been falling for 4 years now. In floury varieties, Agata is by far the top variety, ahead of Monalisa. Both are present only in France and the Netherlands, with similar areas in each country. In this category all the breeders are searching for a variety with a (very) high yield, good washability and an acceptable frying colour to supply the European and export markets. As this is not easy to select, the existing varieties are holding their place.

Processing varieties

These varieties are being pushed higher by fast growth in European processing activity, with major developments worth noting: Bintje (-19%) has slipped to 4th place behind Fontane (+23%), which has clearly taken over the leadership, Agria (+12%) and Innovator (+10%). Challenger has lost 18% and returned to its 2014 level. All the other major varieties are also on the increase with the exception of Ramos (-35%). Lady Anna is booming (+75%) at almost 400 ha of seed multiplication. The crisping varieties are dominated by Lady Claire, with more than 1,000 ha, despite a 15% fall this year. It is followed by Hermes (+24%), Lady Rosetta (-4%), Pirol (+4%) and VR808 (+8%). Changes are expected in this category in the coming years.

Fast improvements inorganic varieties

Organic potato production has been increasing very fast in recent years. Varieties with more resistance to late blight are difficult to develop so a variety like Agria is still mainly used (thanks to its relatively good tolerance to late blight on the leaf and very good French fry quality). Carolus, Vitabella and Sarpo Mira are going up considerably. The other varieties in the top 8 are going down.


Seed potato image: ‘Early Rose variety seed tuber with sprouts’ by Mathias Karlsson (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons



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Mahindra HZPC unveils aeroponics seed potato plant

Mahindra HZPC launches its state-of-the-art aeroponics facility in Mohali for early generation seed potato production

MHZPC, a 60/40 joint venture of Mahindra Agri Solutions Limited (MASL) and HZPC, has this month inaugurated its state-of-the-art aeroponics facility in Mohali, India.

The new facility will produce the best in class seed potatoes via an innovative process and the latest technology.

In a press release, Mahindra said this will translate into “high quality seed potatoes for the Indian farmer and in turn for consumers.”

Speaking at the inauguration of the facility, Mahindra Agri Solutions Ltd. CEO Ashok Sharma said aeroponics will drastically change the landscape of agriculture, providing world class seeds to farmers and thus leading to higher productivity and increased cultivation.

“Consumers too will feel the advantage as they will be able to experience more and differentiated choices in food, a proposition that Mahindra very strongly believes in,” he said.

Built to support Mahindra’s seed potato business, the aeroponics facility will grow plants suspended in a closed environment, without the use of soil. Necessary nutrients are delivered to the plants through the spraying of atomized nutrient-rich water to the suspended roots and lower stems.

Mahindra said aeroponics will be highly useful both for the B2B and B2C segments. The processing industry will be able to launch new varieties into their production programmes faster, as Aeroponics will help reduce the time to market for new varieties by 50%.

For farmers, this will translate into virus-free world class seeds which will increase productivity by 10-30%, providing the much needed fillip to farmer incomes, it said.

Mahindra HZPC’s aeroponics facility has a capacity to generate 3 million minitubers, and the first production batch is slated to be out in January, 2017. Mahindra HZPC also has plans to launch six new potato varieties, half of which will cater to end consumers and the rest at the processing sector.

Mahindra HZPC owns another facility in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh; which together with the new aeroponics facility is expected to generate 15 million minitubers within a couple of years.

HZPC is a world leader in potato breeding and seed potato trade and Mahindra a US$ 17.8 billion multinational group based in Mumbai.

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KWS to focus on hybrid potato breeding

WS to fully focus on hybrid potato breeding and divest its conventional seed potato business

KWS is to sell its conventional seed potato business as part of its plan to focus on developing hybrid potato varieties.

Based in Einbeck, Germany, KWS said in a press release that the sale to seed potato company Stet Holland B.V. is expected to be completed by mid-2016.

It said the KWS Group’s seed potato business is steered by its subsidiary KWS POTATO B.V., which is based in Emmeloord, the Netherlands. “Varieties and potato breeding material dedicated to French fries, crisps and table potatoes for traditional export markets are to be sold to Stet Holland BV, a Dutch company also based in Emmeloord,” the release said.

“The future owner Stet Holland offers good perspectives for a successful continuation of our conventional potato business while KWS will fully focus its efforts in potato utilizing its resources and know-how as a breeder to develop hybrid varieties,” said Peter Hofmann, a member of the KWS SAAT SE executive board. “Hybrid breeding in potato and multiplication via seed instead of tubers is an entirely new but highly promising approach that has considerable advantages compared to conventional breeding. We have been working in this innovative field since 2011 and have meanwhile achieved significant progress,” he said.

Stet Holland general manager Peter Ton said the markets for the current KWS and Stet varieties are very complementary.

“Taking over KWS’ variety portfolio, seed potato production, and sales channels will enable us to create synergies and gain presence in key markets and specific processing segments,” he said.

The parties have agreed not to disclose the financial terms of this transaction.

KWS will continue its hybrid potato breeding activities under the roof of KWS POTATO B.V. The breeding station in Emmeloord, the Netherlands, is an important part of KWS’ global research network and offers excellent conditions for these activities, KWS said in the release.

KWS said it is one of the world’s leading plant breeding companies, focusing on plant breeding and the production and sale of seed for corn, sugarbeet, cereals, potatoes, rapeseed and sunflowers. “In fiscal 2014/15, 4,700 employees in 70 countries generated net sales of €986 million and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of €113 million.”

Stet Holland has a strong basis of affiliated seed potato growers in various regions in the Netherlands and annual turnover of about €20 million. A subsidiary of HZPC Holding, it acts independently from the HZPC seed potato business. The Stet Holland portfolio includes the varieties Amarin, Bellini, Dirosso, Safari, Sultana, Triplo, Vitalia and Zina Red.

Source: KWS to fully focus on hybrid potato breeding and divest its conventional seed potato business