The History of Dutch Potato Breeding 1888–2018: from Hobby to Industry


The Netherlands has a world-leading position in potato breeding, but little is known about the factors that led to this success. This paper analyses the factors that have influenced the development of potato breeding in the Netherlands. This study is based on research of the grey and scientific literature and interviews with various representatives from the Dutch potato breeding sector. We distinguish four periods: (i) Before 1888, no potato breeding in the Netherlands existed whereas in other countries first crosses occurred. (ii) 1888–1940, more individuals started breeding out of interest and hobby to overcome the commonly observed degeneration of potato. (iii) 1940–1967 the emergence of a corporate set up of breeding by private companies collaborating with small breeders. (iv) 1967–present, towards full-fledged breeding industry supported by the new Seeds and Planting Materials Act (ZPW) in 1967 including the breeders’ rights. Many factors including cultural practices, diseases, and market that determine the strategy of breeding have been analysed. The development is most of all ‘crop driven’ to maintain the level of production. But it was also ‘export driven’ leading to the development of an export-oriented seed potato sector. The conclusion is that three elements were dominant in the development of a strong potato breeding sector: (1) the broad cooperation among all players in the potato chain, (2) the design of the institutional infrastructure, and (3) the remuneration of the breeding work through legislation regarding plant breeders’ rights. The study ends with an outlook on future trends, one of them leading from an open to a more closed business culture.