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Historical document

National potato breeding program_ strategic trait development (PT08033)

Key research provider: The Dept of Economic Development & Resources
Publication date: July, 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Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.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 account for 20 per cent of all vegetable production in Australia. Unfortunately, the main Australian commercial cultivars at the time suffered from a number of production and quality issues, which this project investigated.

The techniques developed in this project changed the way potato breeding was conducted. This project investigated the rapidly advancing area of molecular genetic technologies. As a result of reviewing the publicly available resources, undertaking economic cost comparisons between alternatives and through establishing significant international links with the leading research groups, the project validated and implemented DNA markers, and opened significant opportunities to develop improved potato cultivars for Australia. These efforts enabled this Australian research program to become internationally recognised, within a very short period.

The researcher developed a greater understanding of potato genetics, which provided understanding of the biology and how to control two major problems the Australian industry had over recent years, potato cyst nematodes (PCN) and Potato virus Y (PVY). By understanding resistance and the resistance mechanisms controlling PCN and PVY the researcher was able to start providing answers for all members of the industry to aid in their control.

The researcher also adapted a genetic analysis technique used in livestock breeding that could be widely applied to potato research, producing significant advances. This technique would also be widely applied to other horticultural research in Australia, and was expected that it would be adopted globally.

The Australian program was now positioned to continually improve cultivars, build significantly on previous efforts, and populations grown in remote areas to the central program, which enabled cultivars to be bred in specific regions such as Tasmania and Western Australia.

Breeding once involved comparing characteristics of potential new cultivars. Numbers and population size once mattered in the search to find a superior cultivar. At the time of this report being published, the populations could be designed and tested to determine the better families, parents and cultivars, due to a better understanding of their genetics. Today computing and technological advances were far more important than numbers in breeding, and this was likely to change the progressive potato breeding programs globally.


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Funding statement:
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) using funds from the Australian Government and the Potato industry levy.

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2015. The Final Research Report (in part or as whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation (except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)).