Breeding Late Blight Resistant Potatoes for Organic Farming—a Collaborative Model of Participatory Plant Breeding: the Bioimpuls Project


In organic potato production, the need for varieties with durable late blight resistance developed through classical breeding programmes is urgent. Besides late blight resistance, other variety characteristics needed in organic potato production are early canopy closure for weed suppression and good tuber dormancy to eliminate the need for (chemical) sprouting inhibition during storage, amongst others. This paper is a unique example of collaboration between researchers, farmers and professional breeders of both large, medium and small breeding companies. The aim of the resulting breeding project, Bioimpuls, was to provide a substantial impulse to both the organic and conventional potato breeding sector by enlarging the access to various sources of late blight resistance. The Bioimpuls activities include providing true seed populations for variety selection with five available sources of R-genes against Phytophthora infestans, early and advanced introgression breeding with six new R-genes, and education and communication. The results achieved over the 11-year period (2009–2019) are analysed. Many true seed populations containing multiple resistance genes are produced and selected, and a constant flow of breeding clones is entering the evaluation and positioning trials of companies. However, it will still take a considerable amount of time before varieties with stacked resistance genes will replace the new resistant single gene varieties entering the market in the next few years. Five out of six new sources of R-genes need more years of backcrossing before they are ready for commercial use. Bioimpuls successfully introduced a training course for farmer breeders, and published a manual for potato breeding.