Breeding, Equipment/Technology, Europe, UK, Ireland, News June 2020, Pests and Diseases, Pressreleases, Production/Agronomy, Research, Varieties

Unique robot helps HZPC in the fight against diseases

HZPC is employing the services of a specialised robot in its fight against potato diseases and viruses within its breeding programme.

In combination with marker technology, this supports the quicker development of resistant potato varieties so that lower levels of pesticides are required and crop losses are kept to a minimum. According to the Dutch potato company, disease resistant varieties are an important step towards worldwide food security and sustainable potato growing. 

HZPC has had varieties with resistance to G. pallida for the past few decades; the company is now also introducing varieties with a high level of resistance against Phytophthora (late blight), virus and wart disease (potato cyst nematode diseases).

The aim is to ensure that three-quarters of new HZPC varieties are resistant to Phytophthora and the Y-virus by 2030. In this variety development process, DNA-marker technology is vital; i.e. extracting DNA from a potato plant leaf in order to evaluate all its characteristics. One plant cells contains around 40,000 genes and characteristics.

The more information we know about this molecular information, the more successful the breeding processes will be, HZPC says in a press release.  

Robot isolates DNA 

In the laboratories of the North-Netherlands’ R&D site in Metslawier, where HZPC’s potato varieties are developed and improved, a specialised robot is helping to provide insights into plant DNA. Within fifteen minutes, the robot can isolate the DNA of no fewer than 1,536 potato plants.

HZPC built the robot to its own designs in order to gain molecular information more quickly. Breeding involves highly accurate, precision processes. Positive qualities, for example, are crossed with a variety that has resistance to multiple diseases.

The DNA from the descendants is then examined to see whether a most robust variety has been created. The use of the robot and marker technology has allowed HZPC to accelerate the process considerably. As precision and growing volumes are significantly increased, the chance of finding improved new varieties is also increased.  

More responsible foods 

HZPC is delighted that this unique robot and marker technology can be used in the fight against viruses and potato diseases. The Netherlands is a centre for the breeding and the production of seed potatoes. Within its breeding programmes, the company focuses on disease resistance, food quality and realising the highest possible yield per square metre in a circular and responsible manner.

Disease resistant potatoes need lower levels of pesticides and that is better for the environment. Resistant varieties also limit large-scale crop losses so there is more responsible food for all global citizens.  


Want to read more about resistant varieties and other sustainable initiatives by HZPC? Go to our website and read the sustainability report for 2018/2019. 

For questions or more information:
Jeanine Develing 
e: [email protected]      
t: +31 (0)6 83075372 

Founded in 1898 and rooted in The Netherlands, HZPC has grown to become global market leader in innovative breeding, seed potato trading and concept development. We aim for durable growth. We offer innovative potato varieties that are optimised for local growing conditions. We share knowledge and provide solutions that dynamically anticipate the climatological, cultural and commercial challenges faced by the entire food sector. With 400 employees across 15 countries, and exports to over 90 countries, we contribute to the availability of responsible food for the well-being of millions of people worldwide.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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