Popular Scottish Potato Breeds Threatened by Disease
Two of Scotland’s favorite potato breeds might be under threat as experts warn it might become impossible to grow them the near future, the Sunday Post writes in a recent report.
According to the information, Maris Piper and King Edward potato crops in the country have been ravaged by diseases such as blight. A potato researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is quoted to have said that “in 20 years’ time we won’t be growing Maris Piper because they won’t be viable.”
Fortunately, Scottish scientists are working to create new breeds of blight-resistant potatoes by crossing them with native South American ancestors of the original varieties. The new varieties are then sent to taste panels to make sure customers will like them. However, customers remain loyal to traditional verities such as King Edward, which poses challenges for new breeds. Retailers are also reluctant to replace familiar potatoes with varieties that are not guaranteed to sell well.
According to a specialist cited by the report, potatoes are an important part of the food industry, but there is no genetic variation. Across big areas one might find very little variation, every plant is identical and that is the problem. On top of that, the chemicals farmers have in their armory to fight blight are becoming fewer and fewer. Given that blight is a living thing that it evolves, a potato variety can be resistant now, but it might not be in 10 years’ time.
“We have to run to stand still. These problems are never truly solved. We managed them,” said one of the potato specialists quoted by the source.
The report concluded that given the reluctance on behalf of both consumer and retailers, getting a substantial new variety on the market is going to be very difficult even if its blight resistant, as consumers do not seem to be particularly worried by crop diseases.