AHDB launches potato variety comparison tool

Potato growers can now benefit from a new AHDB variety tool, offering an interactive way to select cultivars based on varietal pest and disease-resistance ratings.

Picking which variety to plant next spring can be time-consuming, with 249 listed on the AHDB’s potato variety database.

The online tool is set to make this decision-making process simpler and easier. Growers can compare selected varieties, examine trends, filter down suggestions, while also using the “Change over time” element to identify current popular varieties.

See also: Four new potato products offer hope to growers 

Industry benefits

Anne Stone, AHDB Potatoes knowledge exchange manager, said the tool aims to make information more accessible to the whole industry.

“For packers, it is an important, but difficult decision to choose which varieties to put forward to the retailer, and for growers it is a challenge to know which variety should be planted in which field,” she said. The tool will aid growers and agronomists to help pick the right variety, while identifying potential weaknesses and how best to use the genetic resources available.

“The practical tool for agronomists and growers was developed by taking information from the potato variety database and combining this with our market intelligence information.”

Compare, filter and suggest

The group’s data development analyst, Kevin Dowle, said the tool focuses on three key agronomic elements: compare, filter and suggest.

Firstly, the compare section directly compares resistance characteristics of selected varieties. Results are displayed in graph form, where each bar represents a different disease resistance score.

Users have the option to delve deeper into market trends, dormancy data, diseases and nitrogen applications.

Next comes the filter option, which allows users to specify given traits, consisting of market sector, skin colour, shape, maturity and organic production to narrow down potential variety choices.

Finally, the suggest option offers alternatives to the specific varieties based on key traits. However, Mr Dowle admitted more work is required on this function. He hopes to integrate additional market data into the function to generate more detailed suggestions.

The tool is available at the dedicated AHDB website www.ahdb.org.uk/potato-variety-comparison-tool

Change in use feature

The newly launched potato variety comparison tool also includes a “Change in use” section that demonstrates how potato variety choice has changed over time.

It displays data on how resistance scores have changed over time, with 9 demonstrating a high disease-resistance score and 1 demonstrating a low score.

Specific characteristics can be selected for. However, Mr Dowle pointed out that some diseases have more data than others and it is important to consider that disease resistance is not the only factor affecting variety choice.

A detailed menu allows users to investigate individual diseases, with graphs showing significant changes in  varieties grown between 1996 and 2000.

“For example, with the potato cyst nematode species Globodera rostochiensis, we see a marked drop in use of varieties with a resistance rating of 2, and a considerable increase in varieties with a rating of 7, 8 and 9 over time,” reported Mr Dowle.

The drive for potato trait improvements within the industry and the loss of actives influence new variety developments.

“Data can provide us with evidence, and how this evidence is used influences change,” he said.

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