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Blight resistant potatoes: Marketing ploy or real?

This article was written by Amy Skea of Potato House and first published on their website here. It is republished here with permission.

Blight can decimate an entire crop and in a matter of days your hard work can be completely inedible, rotting away before your eyes.  You can feel the despair in a very small way that faced the rural communities during the potato famine. 

According to The Royal Horticultural Society RHS, potato and tomato blight, also known as late blight, attacks the foliage and fruit or tubers of tomatoes and potatoes, causing rotting. It is most common in wet weather.  Blight is a disease caused by a fungus-like organism that spreads rapidly in the foliage and tubers or fruit of potatoes and tomatoes in wet weather, causing collapse and decay.

We are asked quite frequently what we do in the summer, and the answer to that is a lot of research for our breeding programme.  The annual Potatoes in Practice showcases new potato varieties, and breeders actually long for a blighty season so they can show off how blight resistant new varieties are as well as how they look and taste.  Check the hashtag #potatoesinpractice on Twitter for some technical potato chat!

As with any industry, research and development is key, and the UK seed potato industry is no exception and is always progressing.  We at Skea Organics and Potato House are proud to be involved in this, and this year we hosted some organic potato demonstrations with several of the leading names in the industry involved.  Some known varieties and other new ones were grown organically. 

Many people like to grow organic in their gardens and allotments as they know that these varieties are hardy and thrive without chemical intervention. Many blight-resistant varieties can show off their credentials at these trials. There were also a few “new potato” varieties here.

We were delighted that so many companies supported this event. Thanks to Agrico Potatoes Cygnet Potato Breeders Ltd Meijer Potato UK IPM Potato Group Solana Seeds United Kingdom Ltd. Sarpo Potatoes Greenvale AP SAC Consulting Perth.

The drone picture below shows our trial plots – the different varieties can be seen by the different leaf colouring and also how some are looking healthy while their neighbours have completely succumbed to blight.

Photo credit: Derek Todd

Once a new variety has come this far it is then subjected to many more tests over several years by the independent trial by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board AHDB when it is given an official score.  We have the results of this and other tests for each of our varieties in the description tab on the variety page of our website

When we sell blight resistant potatoes we really do mean that they have had some serious testing! Please be reminded that the word is resistant not proof and in extremely severe cases these potatoes may still get blight.

In conclusion: Our blight resistant potatoes – not a marketing ploy!

Please note that we can not sell our varieties outside of the UK.

Author: Amy Skea
amy@potatohouse.co.uk
Twitter: PotatoHouseUK
Cover photo: Potatoes in Practice 2021. Credit Brian Walker

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