Breeding, Varieties

Canada: From plantlet to tuber: the story behind the staple

Commercial seed potatoes start as tiny plantlets, or tissue culture grown in a special medium. This form of micro propagation started about 50 years ago as a way to multiply disease free plants that would eventually become seed potatoes. |  Barbara Duckworth photoModern potatoes start as tiny plantlets that take years of nurturing before they become a full-grown tuber for the seed market. It can be a risky business. New varieties may offer disease tolerance or turn into tastier french fries but have little value if the market rejects them. “At the end, it is the consumer who controls what is in the store,” said Alberta seed potato grower Ludwig Reicheneder. “What we have been facing in the past with establishing new varieties is that the store tells you, ‘you can grow whatever you want,’ but they won’t put it on the shelf.” That means going back to the beginning and possibly losing an entire breeding program. Reicheneder is part of a family owned business, Rockyview Nuclear Tuber Ltd. and Rockyview Elite Tubers, based 30 kilometres east of Calgary. His father, Gabriele Reicheneder, had 20 years experience growing potatoes in Germany before coming to Canada in 2001 to start this farm. He used a tour to his farm earlier this year to explain the years of cautious development that are required to bring a better potato to market. More

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