Cross visit in the Netherlands
Exchange of experiences on organic seeds and seed potatoes within the LIVESEED Horizon 2020 project
At the beginning of October 16 participants (including breeders, researchers, farmers and representatives of certifying organizations) from nine countries took part in an interesting and colourful professional event in the Netherlands, hosted by the Luis Bolk Institute. The Hungarian delegation included Judit Fehér from the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi) and Zsolt Polgár, representing the Hungarian potato research sector.
On the first day we visited Wageningen University & Research, where Steven Groot gave a lecture on seed storage. We learned that besides low temperatures and relative humidity levels, a low oxygen level is also important for the long term viability of sowing seeds (more information on this topic can be found here in English). After the presentation we had the opportunity to visit the gene bank of Wageningen University & Research.
The second day focused on vegetable seeds. First, we visited Vitalis, which is one of the leading organic seed production companies in the world, where, among other things, they breed organic pumpkins. Besides taking a look at the demonstration garden, the seed quality testing laboratory and the various seed cleaning equipment, we also learned about the Germains (organic) seed treatment possibilities (e.g. priming, or pre-germination, and the application of different coatings regulating water uptake). The next place we visited was the De Bolster family company, which specializes in organic seed production and offers more than 370 different sowing seeds, mostly in small packets for hobby gardeners and market farmers.
The third day was dedicated to seed potatoes. First, we visited the agricultural sowing seed and seed potato testing laboratories of the Dutch General Inspection Service (NAK – Nederlandse Algemene Keuringsdienst), where we got some insight into their professional work process, including the different steps of the certifying system. Then we visited Agrico –the largest organic seed potato supplier with a market share of 50% on the global organic seed potato market. We looked at the various units there
DUS Variety Registration Tests (Approximately 230 new varieties of lettuce are submitted for registration in the Netherlands each year)
including greenhouses, their inspection and quality control plant, and the air-conditioned rooms for the detection of latent diseases. The organization operates as a cooperative society covering the whole value chain from breeding, through seed potato and food potato production, to marketing strategy development and commercialization.
On the last day we visited the Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture (Naktuinbouw), where we learned about the structure and the activities of the organization, and took a look at the greenhouses and the field variety testing plots used for performing the DUS (distinctness, uniformity and stability) tests required for the recognition of the different varieties. We also had an interesting discussion with the participating specialists on future challenges related to the DUS testing of varieties specially bred for organic farming. The institute also operates an organic propagation material database (in Dutch) under the following link: http://biodatabase.nl.