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Agrico Research

The emergence of a successful potato variety

In 2019 the table potato variety Arizona set a milestone by becoming the first Agrico Research variety to be grown in the Netherlands on more than 1,000 hectares for the propagation of seed potatoes. This was a special achievement for this variety, which originated in the year 1997.

Origin
The foundations were laid for Arizona (AR 98-0313) in 1997. The mother of the Arizona variety is a seedling taken over from a British breeding program (UK 150-19D22) and its father is the Mascotte variety. Mascotte (MA 77-2 x Rianta) is a variety that has never had commercial success. The pedigree of the variety’s mother is otherwise unknown. At first glance, these would not seem to be the ingredients for a very successful breed, but as it happened, nothing could be further from the truth.

In 1999, 140 offspring (clones) were planted out, 13 of which were retained and planted out in 2000. This laid the foundation for the first Agrico Research 1,000-hectare variety.

A popular variety
In 2010, Arizona made its first appearance by name (rather than number) on the NAK list. Things accelerated after that, with Arizona’s acreage expanding by three to four times in 2011 and 2012. From 2013 to 2015, the acreage doubled on average each year, after which there was a consistent annual average increase of 20 to 30 percent. In 2019, Arizona accounted for 44% of the total acreage of all 24 Agrico Research varieties.

Twenty thousand tons of Arizona seed potatoes from the 2018 harvest were exported. They went mainly to Mediterranean countries, with Algeria (around 30%) and Italy (around 15%) being the largest customers, followed by Iraq with approximately 13%. The Arizona variety also went to overseas destinations such as Cuba, Botswana, Sudan and Honduras. The seed potatoes were exported to a total of 30 countries, making Arizona the Agrico variety with the broadest sales at the time.

Milestone for Arizona
Arizona reached the extraordinary milestone of 1,000 hectares in 2019. This is an outstanding performance for a variety protected by plant variety rights (which means that it may not yet be traded freely). This achievement placed Arizona among the top 10 largest varieties*. Out of the 480 varieties notified in 2019, five were propagated on more than 1,000 hectares. Only three of these were still protected by plant variety rights.

Science or craft?
Plant breeding is a unique profession that combines science and craft. There are few scientific research results underlying the success of Arizona; instead, the knowledge and experience of the plant breeders at Agrico Research have ensured that this cross, which didn’t appear very promising on paper, has grown to become the first 1,000-hectare Agrico Research variety.

A lot of work has gone into achieving this result. An average of 3,500 clones were planted each year from 1959 to 1961. In the years that followed this expanded to about 25,000 clones per year, and from 1975 to 1999 some 75,000 clones were planted each year. It therefore took 41 seasons and around two million offspring from thousands of crossbreeds to lay the foundations for Arizona, the first Agrico Research 1,000-hectare variety.

*This concerns only the Dutch area registered with the NAK. Growing areas abroad are not taken into account.