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Historical document

National potato breeding program- cultivar improvement (PT07017)

Key research provider: The Dept of Economic Development Jobs, Transport & Resources
Publication date: June, 2012

This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.

What was it all about?

Potatoes were the fourth-largest food crop internationally, and accounted for 20 per cent of all vegetable production in Australia. Although potatoes were a valuable food crop, the main commercial cultivars at the time suffered from a number of production and quality issues, and the Australian potato breeding program developed new cultivars that addressed these issues.

Prior to the start of this project the breeding program was reviewed on its scientific activities, and the involvement with industry members to establish a firm route to market. This required commercial investment for the development of improved cultivars, with the opportunity open to all the industry. In total 18 companies participated.

The program had distributed 217 cultivars for commercial evaluation over the last four years, with this season’s cultivars still to be identified. Twenty-five cultivars were progressing towards commercialisation.

Over the last five years, potato breeding in Australia had changed. It used to involve comparing characteristics of potential new cultivars. Numbers mattered in the search to find a superior cultivar. When this report was published, the populations were designed and tested to determine the better families, parents and cultivars with greater insight. This change was due to the adoption of advanced computing and molecular techniques, which reduced the reliance on large seedling populations.

The program was now using molecular markers to identify cultivars with resistance to potato cyst nematode, Potato virus Y and Potato virus X, and utilised estimated breeding values to obtain significant genetic gain in a number of important traits, such as yield.

By analysing the genetics, the researcher could now have early field generations run locally by industry partners, but under the guidance and analysis of the central program. This development enabled trials to be run in states such as Tasmania and Western Australia, without the biosecurity constraints present at the time.

As well as the investors benefiting from the development of cultivars, there would also be flow-on benefits to the rest of the industry. Those companies in the supply chain of the investing companies benefited and the research into the genetics of resistance enabled growers to use resistant cultivars as part of their management strategy.


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Funding statement:
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited).

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