Hybrid breeding: How does it work?

Before Solynta’s invention, breeders had to rely on trial and error, in an extremely unfavourable numbers game.
Using the traditional techniques, when a new variety was selected – after often more than 12 years – this potato then needs to be clonally multiplied – putting one potato in the ground and at the end of the year harvesting approximately 8 potatoes, which then also had to be put in the ground to grow more potatoes over the following year, and so on and on and on. With a coping rate of approximately 8 per year, it often takes ofte 7 years or more before commercial volumes of the new variety is reached.

Another problem is that during this clonal (asexually) multiplication there is a build-up of diseases in the tubers which intensifies with each multiplication round. This means  that there are only a few places in the world where one can produce relatively healthy seed tubers.

Solynta breeding technology works by sexual propagation, the crossing elite lines of male and female ‘parent’ potatoes to produce new hybrid offspring which share the best features of both parents. Instead of an empiric trial and error process delivering hodgepodge results, hybrid breeding is extremely goal directed and efficient. One can now apply for the first time apply breeding by design in the potato crop.

This sexual crossing of the two parent lines results in thousands of true seeds per plant instead of only a few potatoes. So multiplication of a new variety can occur much faster. Since the offspring of a sexual cross is a pristine true seed, these are completely free of diseases and therefore make excellent starting material for potato growers looking to grow new varieties.

These true potato seeds will be sown and grow into seedlings, and these seedlings are transplanted into the field. Depending on the climate and business economics, they will then grow into either seed-tubers to be used as starting material for next season’s production crop, or into a full scale production crop immediately. Put simply, using true seeds the supply chain is much shorter. Because we focus on producing seeds rather than tubers, and because each potato plant can produce thousands of seeds at a time, it is possible to produce enormous quantities of new, improved hybrid seeds very quickly, to meet urgent demand..

The technology also gives us the ability to quickly develop new varieties to meet specific requirements. By improving the elite parent lines we can improve their offspring variety. This improving of the parent lines is done by a technique known as backcrossing by which we can improve the parent, lines with natural occurring potato traits easily, quickly and in a targeted way.

In this way we can now quickly adapt, improve and commercialize varieties to meet changing requirements from consumers, farmers and processors