Origen and family

With more than one billion consumers, potatoes are the third largest food crop in the world, following wheat and rice. They are grown in more than 130 countries.


Apparently, potato plants grew in the Andes mountains of South America around seven thousand years ago. The Incas cultivated a number of potato varieties on small plots in the mountains.

In 1536, explorers brought the potato to Europe. Monks were responsible for further distribution around Europe. They planted potatoes in monastery gardens. Not for consumption but rather as a decorative plant, as their nutritional value had not yet been discovered.

The potato as we now know it arrived in Spain, near the port of Seville around 1570. The British introduced it to North and West Europe. It was not until the end of the 18th century that people began to see the potato as a food products.


The Solanum tuberosum, as the potato is known in Latin, is a herbaceous perennial. It belongs to the family of flowering plants. Just like the tomato and the aubergine, the potato and a thousand other species are members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family: the green parts are poisonous. The potato plants can reach a height of 100 cm (40 inches). It develops an energy supply in a tuber under the ground, which is what we know as the potato. Potatoes are rich in starch, and are nearly always grown from a single clone which has the best genes. And so all the potatoes of any variety come from that single clone. Worldwide, there are around four thousand potato varieties by now.

The cultivation process

With more than one billion consumers, potatoes are the third largest food crop in the world, following wheat and rice. They are grown in more than 130 countries.

The development of a new potato variety is a time-consuming and costly process. It can take up to 10 to 12 years between the start of the cultivation programme and the market introduction.

Steps potato breeding program

  1. Identification of qualities to be improved.
  2. Selection of the parent plants.
  3. Development of a variant by crossing varieties, for example.
  4. Repeated selection of the best plants according to various methods.
  5. Testing of promising plants at test locations.
  6. Official tests, distribution of seeds and marketing.

The quest for a new variety

Year 1: pollination

We look for parent plants with the right characteristics, which can be crossed. We place them in a greenhouse, where they can pollinate each other. After pollination of the parent plant, the plant produces berries. These berries contain the seeds for the new crossed variety.

Year 2: sowing

Each potato berry contains 300 seeds, each of them with a unique composition. We need an enormous number of seeds in order to choose a new variety. The seeds are sown, and grow into seedlings. Once the seedlings are mature, they each produce one or two small tubers.

Year 3: planting

We plant out each seedling tuber individually in the field. We then monitor them during the cultivation season. Each year, we start with around 25,000 unique seedlings. After the harvest, we evaluate them and store a small percentage away for the next season.

Year 4: cultivation

Each potential variety is numbered, so that we can identify them. We grow them again, test them and make a selection.

Year 5: testing

We now have enough material of each variant to plant pilot fields and compare them at our test site.

Year 6 – 8: selection

We test the potatoes at various locations in the Netherlands. The selection process becomes more and more stringent. We assess the potatoes in terms of their:

  • presentation
  • crop
  • resistance to diseases
  • quality characteristics for consumption
  • suitability for processing

Year 9 – 12: fieldtrails

Seed potatoes are an important export products. We therefore test them extensively in 8 to 10 countries, and once again evaluate all the results in the various countries. Of the 25,000 seedlings, only one or two will become a commercially successful variety.