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New Zealand’s seed potato revolution: Ensuring top-tier quality for growers

The New Zealand Seed Potato Certification Scheme, established in 1948, has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of seed potatoes. Administered by the New Zealand Seed Potato Certification Authority, a sub-committee under Potatoes New Zealand (PNZ), the scheme ensures commercial growers receive seeds that adhere to strict standards for disease freedom and authenticity, according to a recent news story published by PNZ.

The day-to-day management of the Seed Certification Scheme used to be contracted out but in 2021 PNZ took on this role internally and today it carried out by a team of four dedicated PNZ staff members.

Among them are Iain Kirkwood who has over 40 years’ experience in the global potato industry, who serves as the key contact point for the program, Tristan Hickman, with 13 years of industry experience, Cyril Hickman with an impressive 27-year industry tenure, and Paula Lleras, an agronomist from Argentina who joined PNZ in 2019, bringing her valuable background in potatoes to the team.

Geographic Seed Production Insights

A staggering 95% of New Zealand’s seed potato production is concentrated in the Canterbury region. The remaining 5% is cultivated in the North Island, where PNZ collaborates with a network of contractors to guarantee quality and compliance.

Behind the Scenes

The PNZ Team The Seed Certification Scheme’s management transitioned in-house in 2021, with a team of four dedicated PNZ staff members at the helm. This team boasts industry veterans like Iain Kirkwood, with over four decades of experience, and Paula Lleras, an agronomist from Argentina.

Certification Process

A Two-Pronged Approach The Seed Certification Program encompasses field and tuber inspections. Field inspections, conducted from November to March, ensure cultivar authenticity, disease absence, and crop hygiene. Tuber inspections, from April to October, culminate in the issuance of certification labels, marking the seed line’s certification completion.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

The potato industry grapples with challenges such as new diseases, biosecurity risks, and rising production costs. Introducing a new potato variety in New Zealand is a meticulous process, often spanning years. Despite these challenges, the dedication of the PNZ team and the broader industry ensures New Zealand remains a formidable player in the global potato sector.

The unwavering commitment of organizations like Potatoes New Zealand and the collective efforts of growers and companies fortify New Zealand’s seed potato industry. Their dedication to quality, innovation, and continuous enhancement solidifies New Zealand’s esteemed position in the global potato landscape.

Source: Potatoes New Zealand (PNZ). Read the full story here
Photo: ‘Seeding success’ – Tristan, Cyril, Paula and Iain. Credit and courtesy PNZ

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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