Potato Days is a spectacular event that is held every year in the Emmeloord-Joure areas of Friesland. It is a 3-day event, usually the second week in November, when the Dutch potato-breeding companies and a few companies from Germany and Denmark, open their doors to showcase new potato varieties. Tuber samples are on display, and there are brochures with information on agronomy, tuber quality and pest resistance. I have attended this event before, and for the first time I saw second growth on some varieties, caused by the unusually hot, dry summer in 2018.
The two largest breeding companies in The Netherlands are AGRICO (Emmeloord) and HZPC (Joure). Agrico displayed fresh market varieties in large trays with peat moss. Processing varieties were displayed in wooden boxes with trays of French fries or potato chips in front of the boxes to show visitors how the varieties would fry.
One of the AGRICO fresh-market varieties that caught the attention of many attendees was Constance. This past season, I evaluated Constance at Brenn-B Farms and at Tupling Farms variety trials where it performed very well. I met the breeder, a “hobby” breeder, who develops varieties. Any of his selections that perform well are marketed by AGRICO.
The market for fresh-cut fries seem to be increasing, and AGRICO had many varieties that looked very promising. Bridget, a new variety showcased by AGRICO, performed well in Ontario in 2017 and 2018.
The chip samples on display were impressive, but we still need to find a European chipping variety that performs well in Ontario!
At the NORIKA open house, there were many specialty varieties. One of them was the yellow-fleshed GOLDMARIE with long, medium-sized, attractive tubers and above average culinary traits. GOLDMARIE performed very well at the Tupling Farms variety trial in 2018. ALEGRIA, a table and fresh-cut fry variety that I had evaluated some years ago, was also showcased. ALEGRIA is resistant to scab and produces attractive tubers, but it did not catch the attention of Ontario growers in the 2012-2013 variety trials. It is getting now lots of good reviews from the US. and I am planning to have a second look at it in 2019.
The HZPC company had a great display in Joure. The tubers were placed in crates distributed over 3 floors around the atrium of the HZPC building. More than 100 varieties were showcased including processing (chips and French fries), fresh market, specialty, creamers and organic potatoes. Lunch was fish and chips with the French fries prepared using the new russet TIGER. Delicious! Also, attendees had the opportunity to taste LA VIE, a yellow-fleshed variety for the salad and gourmet market.
HZPC is the largest producer of seed potatoes in Europe. Gerard Backx, the CEO, spoke of the impact of the unusually hot, dry summer across Europe in 2018. Despite spreading seed production over six countries, seed volumes were down by 20 %. He said that customers might not be able to get the varieties they expect to grow in 2019 due to the shortage of seed.
Not good news, but it shows that last year Mother Nature was not kind to potatoes all over the world!