Knowing the needs of producers, packers and consumers is the first step to work with consistency and quality. This is the philosophy of the seed house HZPC , a Dutch multinational leader in the production of seed potatoes.
Our experimentation program includes great attention to the use of potatoes, that is the intended use – the director of the Italian office Roberto Ravier and the agronomist Mauro Mazzei explain to Italiafruit News – it is essential to understand the needs of the producer, packer and of the final consumer to offer them valid varieties: for this reason HZPC invests in innovation and new varietal projects every year “.
A continuous research that starts from the experimental station located in North Holland , where every year the product profiles are updated, that is the new perspectives requested by consumers of the different types of market. “From Holland we receive new material and data on clones – continue Ravier and Mazzei – after which we proceed with the setting up of experimental fields: in this way we verify if it is possible to obtain in Italy what has already been found in Holland. We repeat the test fields for two to three years, to validate the agronomic data collected “.
The HZPC potato varieties are made in Holland but the seed potatoes are also produced in other European locations, with the exception of Italy, Spain and Portugal. Once a new variety has been patented, the seed house is the exclusive agent for 30 years . But it is not easy to identify the right type: “We need continuous experimentation in the various countries – specify the two managers – in this process it is the entire supply chain that influences, not just the final consumer “.
Three criteria followed by the seed house to select the right varieties: it must be an easy potato to grow both for the Dutch seed potato producer and for the Italian farmer, so it must be suitable for packaging, processing and storage , finally, it must reflect the taste required by the final consumer . “Before, consumers were led to buy potatoes of general use known as ‘ Suitable for all uses ‘ – the company commented – today, however, there is greater attention on the part of the packer in identifying the needs of consumers, who they are willing to pay even a higher price, in order to have a product that reflects their requests “.
And they continue: “The work done for Campania Patate also goes in this direction with the Crisps4all varieties destined for fried consumption, including domestic ones, and Talentine’s firm- cured potatoes . This partnership is one of our successes. We have many other similar projects in place. We hope to start again shortly with demonstration dinners and ‘live’ communication ”.
How the selection work works
Until ten years ago, Hzpc was working on about 250 thousand new possible varieties (seedling). Today, however, thanks to the new assisted selection techniques that allow for faster screening, it is able to start with just under a million seedlings. “In order for a clone to pass all the selections – underline Ravier and Mazzei – we have to wait at least 10 years, after which we obtain types to be introduced in the various markets. This is why it is essential to consider the needs of consumers with appropriate market research.
If in the past the productivity per hectare dominated among the factors of choice for a variety , today while this remains a very important factor, taste , washability and shelf life have also taken on an important role “. And they continue: “The experimental fields in Italy are distributed in all regions and take into consideration all the agronomic and commercial parameters, especially the climatic ones that increasingly influence the selection. In particular, the ‘ideal potatoes’ must be resistant to different atmospheric conditions and pathogens , as well as being tubers with good dormancy to improve their shelf life.
To avoid the underwire problem, we are focusing on very early varieties : however, we hope that we can soon introduce new methods of controlling these insects to replace the revoked ones “. At the moment Hzpc can count on the Colomba protected type , which is the most sown in Italy and the best-selling on the national market. In addition, the company has been doing research on nutraceuticals for about ten years and there are several projects ready to go.
Focus on the Italian panorama
“Compared to 20 years ago, potato production in Italy has dropped by about 25% – specify the two managers – and the difference between north and south Italy is clear: in the north there are facilities for storing and preserving the product in a to guarantee sales planning while in Campania, Sicily and Puglia the market situation varies from year to year and it is difficult to store the product: growers are forced to sell immediately after harvest and to accept the market price “.
And they comment: “This year, at the end of March, Holland exported 5 thousand tons of seed to Italy out of a total of 53 thousand tons. We will end up with 8-10% fewer sowings than last year in Italy ”. Hzpc is also ready to implement new breeding technologies to shorten the selection . “For us at the moment the decisions taken in Europe are a limitation, we hope in the future we can change our minds. In Holland they adapt to European decisions and do not push towards a decision-making change but hope for openness. As soon as they give us the green light, we will be ready ”
Fabrizio Pattuelli collaborated