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Teagasc papers at the 11th World Potato Congress

The 11th World Potato Congress is taking place at the RDS Dublin over 4 days this week. The theme of the Congress is “The Changing World of the Potato”. Among the speakers today, Wednesday, 1 June, are Dan Milbourne and Ewen Mullins from the Teagasc Crops Research Programme in Oak Park

Michael McLaughlin from the University of Adelaide, Australia who is also Teagasc Adjunct Senior Fellow, at the Crops Research Department in Oak Park is included among today's speakers.

Breeding the potato varieties of tomorrow (faster!) 

Dan Milbourne is a research scientist at Teagasc, where he has over 20 years’ experience developing and deploying genome-based technologies for potato variety improvement. He spoke about breeding the potato varieties of tomorrow. He said; “Breeding better potato varieties is a key component in responding to a range of future challenges. However, potato breeding is both slow and imprecise. It takes over a decade to produce a new variety, so rapidly responding to emerging threats and opportunities is difficult.”

However, potato breeding is in the midst of a sea-change that will transform the speed and precision with which new varieties will be developed. Dr Milbourne said; “Genomic breeding technologies similar to those that have transformed cattle breeding are now also widely used by potato breeders.”

Teagasc and IPM Potato Group Ltd have been partners in developing and breeding new potato varieties for over 45 years, and we think these technologies enable us to produce sustainable varieties into the future.

Fertilisers, sustainability and the future

Michael McLaughlin, Director of the University of Adelaide Fertiliser Technology Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, Australia and Adjunct Senior Fellow at Teagasc, spoke about sustainable use of fertilisers in the future. He said; “Looking to the future, projected declines in use of fossil fuels as renewable energy production increases, coupled to increasing environmental regulation, means there could be significant changes to how fertilisers are produced, distributed and used on farm.”

He pointed out that the key nutrients required for successful potato production are becoming increasingly expensive and under scrutiny for adverse environmental effects in their production and use. Phosphorus, K and S are also non-renewable global resources but fortunately, we are not going to “run out” of these nutrients in the near future, given world resources/reserves. However, poorer quality reserves and increasing costs to mine, manufacture and transport fertilisers, coupled with geopolitical tensions in exporting regions, means that costs of these essential nutrients are likely to increase and be volatile. Similarly, N and S fertiliser production, which are linked to fossil fuel production, are affected by volatility in raw material costs.    

What’s happening with the regulation of new breeding techniques in Europe?

Ewen Mullins is Head of the Teagasc Crops Research Department in Oak Park, which is focused on science-led solutions that underpin both the profitability and environmental sustainability of Ireland's cropping systems. He spoke about what is happening in relation to the regulation of new plant breeding techniques in Europe. 

He pointed out that in 2021, the European Commission published a ‘roadmap’ to revisit the legal framework for plants obtained through Novel Genomic Techniques. The study indicated that the current regulatory system is not fit-for-purpose in light of scientific advancements, and that further policy action should aim at enabling breeding techniques and their products to contribute to sustainability, while ensuring societal concerns are at all times addressed. The impact of this initiative is significant and more recent events highlight the expectation that developments will advance further in the months ahead as the EU strives to develop crop production systems with the potential to contribute to the objectives of the Green Deal.

Find out more about Teagasc involvement with Potatoes