Industry Framework

The production of potatoes for both the fresh and processing sectors is complex and demonstrates a highly technical supply chain.

The framework below displays the intricate nature of this integrated supply chain.

Click here to view Industry Flow Chart 

Introduction

The Australian Potato industry is brought together through a web of interrelated sectors consisting of mini tuber producers, field producers, processors, packing facilities, grower/producer associations, certifying services, highly skilled technical groups, wholesalers and retailers. There is also a strong relationship with government departments and international partners such as breeders and suppliers of genetic material to the supply chain.

A significant number of varieties being produced in Australia are imported from international sources with Europe being the largest contributor. 

Plant Breeders Rights

A percentage of these imported varieties undergo application for Plant Breeders Rights in Australia with the aim of being granted a production licence which provides exclusivity on a said variety for 20 years. IP Australia oversees this PBR application process. 

Click here for the IP Australia website which contains information about the following:

  • Applying for PBR;
  • A database of varieties that are already in Australia and have been granted a PBR licence or are going through the process of PBR;
  • Contact details of agents in Australia in control of these varieties which can be followed up by producers; and
  • Varietal characteristics of licenced varieties.

Other international data bases providing varietal information are:

https://varieties.ahdb.org.uk/

https://www.europotato.org/

https://www.potatopro.com/product-types/potato-varieties This link opens to a catalogue of breeders.

 

2. Importation of Varieties to Australia: THE PROCESS

New potato varieties can be imported into Australia for the production of fresh and processing markets. The importation process is conducted through the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DoAWR) and commences with the submission of an import permit application. Imported varieties may or not be subjected to Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) licencing conditions.

In the case of a variety under PBR, an agreement is required with the international breeder/owner to export and produce the variety in Australia. Where this is granted, an import permit is applied for, and the germplasm is prepared for export to Australia.

In the case of a variety no longer subjected to PBR licencing arrangements, agreements via a third party to import into Australia are not required, however the location of a supplier of the germplasm to prepare the plant material and documentation for export must be sought.  An import permit must also be submitted to DoAWR.

Any individual is eligible to submit an import permit application, or a third party may be engaged to do this on a business/individual’s behalf. Solan (SA) Pty Ltd (Solan) conducts importation of varieties as a service to the potato industry together with the maintenance of varieties in the genetic collection post arrival for production. Solan submits the application documentation for a permit, corresponding with the exporter and liaising with the DoAWR for the duration of the import.

BICON, the Department’s website, provides all the information required to submit an import permit application and to work through the importation process.

Post arrival of imported plant material (germplasm) into Australia, the import is held in quarantine at the Post Entry Quarantine Service (PEQ) for 3-6 months. For potato germplasm, the quarantine facility is located in Mickleham, Victoria.

The duration required for testing in quarantine is determined by:

  1. The source of the exported planted material:
    • Exporting from countries other than the United Kingdom Plant Quarantine Unit, SASA Scotland 
    • Exporting of germplasm out of United Kingdom Quarantine Unit, SASA Scotland 
  2. The germplasm has tested negative to all pathogens listed in the import conditions for potatoes:
    • Once the imported germplasm has met all testing requirements, the material is released to an accredited facility to produce Certified Potato Seed for Australian producers.
    • In South Australia, Solan is accredited with PIRSA’s Biosecurity SA to import high health germplasm from accredited sources and produce certified potato seed for Australian potato seed producers under Australian Seed Potato Industry Certification Authority (AuSPICA).  In addition, Solan is an accredited facility with IP Australia as a Genetic Resource Centre for Potatoes.

Click here to check BICON 'Import Conditions'.

 

3. Genetic Collection and Maintenance

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Invitro Plantlet as stored in genetic collection (Image supplied by Solan)

The production of Generation Zero ‘G0’ potato seed (mini tubers) occurs through the process of tissue culturing invitro material sourced from a genetic collection held within a facility accredited to produce plantlets via the process of tissue culture for the production of ‘G0’ mini tubers. The genetic material within a collection is of high health and may have been obtained though importation via quarantine from an international supplier or an accredited domestic source.

A genetic collection contains a range of potato variety genetics held on behalf of potato industry stakeholders. Collections are housed within a dedicated temperature-controlled clean room. This approach to housing a collection assists in isolating the varietal genetics from potential pathogens whilst also allowing regulation of the rate at which the invitro material grows. Invitro material is held in a collection in this controlled state for 6 to 12 months, therefore it is extremely important that fluctuations in temperature and exposure to potential pathogens are minimised.

To ensure varieties in the collection maintain their health and vigour, the invitro plantlets are removed and sub-cultured during the year to re-produce new plant material. From this sub-cultured material, new plants are selected, re-established in invitro vials and returned to the genetic collection to replace the plants from which they were derived. This process of maintaining a collection is conducted on behalf of the owners or approved agents of the variety, and as varieties become obsolete, they are no longer refreshed but disposed of by exposing to high temperature in an autoclaving process.

 

4. Certification Bodies for Potatoes in Australia

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Victoria, South Australia and Northern NSW (Guyra): https://www.auspica.org.au/seed-potato-certification-2/

 

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Western Australia: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/plant-biosecurity/potato-seed-certification

 

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Tasmania: https://www.utas.edu.au/tia/research/research-projects/projects/tasmanian-certified-seed-potato-scheme

 

Mini-tuber suppliers in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria are Certified under individual agreements with AuSPICA for the production of GO mini Tubers.

 

5. Production of Certified Potato Seed – Mini Tubers

Certified potato seed is potato seed that has been produced under an agreed set of standards that benchmark for quality and disease. This provides purchasers of certified seed, confidence in the product they are buying.  The production of certified potato seed for the Australian industry is of paramount importance as high quality seed optimises profitability for producers and reduces transmission of diseases. The guidelines for certification are overseen by a certifying agent and a supplier of certified seed will be accredited through the certifying agent according to their state’s biosecurity guidelines.  

Mini tuber production, the first step in the production of potato seed, is conducted at facilities accredited under a certification scheme to produce certified potato seed. The very first generation of potato seed, referred to as Generation Zero ‘G0’ comes from plants produced in a protected plant nursery from plantlets derived from high health invitro material. G0 seed derived through the mini tuber production process has a zero tolerance for disease within the tuber. This is significant in that G0 seed is the start of the field production cycle of G1-G5 potato generations. As each generation grows and is subsequently replanted the disease load increases, therefore starting the initial plantings with clean seed is highly important.  

Orders are submitted by potato producers and or agents to an accredited facility for the varieties for which they seek mini tubers for the following season. The varietal material is taken from a collection of high health plant stocks and sub-cultured to produce more plants of each variety required, often referred to as cloning. Sub-culturing plantlets via the tissue culture process to clone more plants is conducted in a specialised bio-secure laboratory and comprises of selecting healthy plant material, slicing it into small single nodal cuttings and inserting these small plant sections into a specifically designed gel medium to develop roots. This process is conducted under highly sterile conditions inside a laminar flow cabinet. 

Initiation of potato plants for the production of potato tubers commences in the tissue culture laboratory under sterile conditions from high health potato germplasm.

Tissue culturing a potato variety is conducted within a laminar flow cabinet which has sterile air moving over the work surfaces to ensure no disease enters the working space that would render the developing plants unsuitable for use.

Plant material is removed from the vessel using sterile instruments and cut into segments containing one leaf node per segment. These small sections of plant are then transferred into a new container to callous and develop a root system after which they are planted into a specialised potting mix to harden, develop a robust root system for on planting into the main nursery production pots.

 

Once new root and leaf development is sufficiently established, these small plantlets are moved from the tissue culture laboratory and transplanted into a soil-free potting mix where they will develop a more robust root system over the next 10 days and harden to the main nursery conditions. This enables the new plants to withstand transplanting into larger production pots, again containing a soil-free potting medium. The growing medium is a composted product targeted to the production of potatoes; it is sterile and contains no soil to ensure the developing plants and tubers are not exposed to any soil-borne diseases. All potting medium used in the production of G0 tuber seed must comply with the certification standards.

The nursery in which the plants grow through to maturity must be of an insect proof construction. This is to assist in the protection of the plants that would otherwise be at risk from feeding insects which are potential vectors for diseases that can impact the health and production capabilities of potatoes. Over the next 10 weeks, the plants are monitored closely for their irrigation requirements, pest and disease presence, inspected by certified inspectors, and are virus-tested just prior to senescence to ensure the plants have remained free from disease during their growth. If all requirements for producing certified potato seed have been met during the plant’s production phase, the pots are then able to be harvested to remove the tubers which have developed. 

The harvesting of mini-tubers occurs once the potato plants have senesced, usually between 70 and 80 days of age depending on the time of year. The vegetative material is removed from the pots surface and discarded and the pots are inverted to tip the root ball containing mature tubers to release. These are gently prised open, the tubers removed and crated for washing after which they are left to cure prior to grading, and storage.

 

The harvested tubers are then washed, cured, graded, counted and bagged for storage until required by seed producers. Maintaining good hygiene of the G0 cool store is paramount as is monitoring cool store conditions; temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and oxygen levels to ensure the seed retains its vigour and disease-free status.

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Figure 1: Sub-cultured
plants establishing
roots

 

Figure 2: Tissue culture
plantlets ready for
planting in nursery

 

Figure 3: Established
tissue culture

 

Figure 4: Sub-cultured
Plantlets being planted
to hardening trays

 

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Figure 5: Potato plants in nursery underip irrigation

 

 

Figure 6: Nursery plants

 

 

Figure 7: Harvesting Potatoes

 

 Figure 8: Mini-tubers ready for storage

 


All images above supplied by Solan


The Mini-tuber facilities in Australia are:


Solan Pty Ltd
(South Australia)

Toolangie Elite (Victoria)

Agronico (Tasmania)

 

6. PBR Trialling in Australia – Distinctive Uniform Stable (DUS) Trials for PART 2 of the PBR Trial Requirements

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PBR Trial (Image supplied by Solan)

Plant Breeder's Rights (PBR) secure the exclusive commercial rights for a registered potato variety. The rights are a form of intellectual property (IP), like patents and trademarks, and are administered in Australia under the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994. The PBR scheme protects potato breeders for a 20-year period from the grant of rights and gives them a commercial monopoly, while encouraging plant breeding and innovation.

New potato varieties are only eligible for PBR protection in Australia if they have been sold (with the breeder’s consent) for less than one year in Australia or less than four years in an overseas country. 

In Australia it is mandatory to demonstrate the new varieties’ characteristics in comparison to its nearest comparator in a trial.

There are two steps to obtaining PBR in Australia as follows:

Part 1:

An IP Australia accredited, and independent Qualified Person works on the behalf of the applicant seeking PBR with the breeder of the variety to develop a Part 1.  This work involves checking for eligibility for PBR and also determining the closest comparator variety.  In many cases this will be a proprietary variety and, if so, negotiation of the use of this variety in a comparative trial needs to be sought.  The Applicant or Agent seeking PBR will need to become registered with IP Australia e-services to submit the Part 1 Application along with application payment.

When the application is acknowledged as accepted by IP Australia, the variety can then progress to be included in a Part 2 trial against its comparator.

Part 2:

The second stage of the licencing process (Part 2) involves what is referred to as a DUS trial.  The purpose of the trial is to develop a plant description of a proprietary variety and compare it to the closest variety of common knowledge in Australia. At the completion of the grow out trial and tuber assessments it will be seen whether the variety PBR is being sought for demonstrates distinctness, uniformity and stability. If this can be achieved, then a PBR licence will be granted. The DUS trial involves the planting of a trial plot of 60 plants for assessment by a QP and examiner from IP Australia at the site of the trial followed by assessment of the tubers derived from the trial plots.

All data is submitted to IP Australia and a determination made. If all requirements have been met the variety will be granted PBR.     

 

7. Field Production G1-G5 for Ware and Processing Markets

Seed potato multiplication to meet the needs of industry – planning a seed supply pipeline

All seed potato tubers are vegetative units for propagation of plants which will produce the new potato crop. Many potato diseases are systemic in potato plants and can be carried in or on the surface of seed tubers, hence these diseases can be multiplied when planted. Therefore, the management of the high health status of seed potatoes is vital.

Seed potatoes are among the most expensive of inputs. They are also the most important contributor to yield and quality of a commercial potato crop. Seed potato management involves considerable investment, time and planning to secure a reliable seed potato pipeline that can support the commercial production of potatoes for fresh and processing potatoes. Instrumental to the seed pipeline is an effective seed potato certification program which is designed and administered to provide reasonable assurances of seed quality and health.

All seed potato stocks originate from high health tissue culture material that is multiplied within the certified seed scheme for up to 5 crops. As such, there is usually around 6 years from initial multiplication in tissue culture to the potatoes being commercially used for their end use. Typically, the seed pipeline of a given variety will include volumes of seed in each generation ensuring a constant supply of seed potatoes for commercial production. In recent times, many seed potato pipelines have been limited to 3 or 4 generations to mitigate the risk of yield limiting virus diseases. Limiting the field generations in the supply pipeline, limits the multiplication of seed tonnage, which can be offset by starting with a higher volume of foundation mini-tubers.

The production of high plant health certified seed potatoes in Australia with a G5 limited production system

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Developed by Dr Nigel Crump AuSPICA

 

 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management is a critical technique used in the development of mini tubers in the Australian industry.

All control measures that are available to control any pest in any crop can be allocated to one of three categories – Biological (the biological control agents that attack pests); Cultural (management practices that impact either pest or beneficial populations, including variety selection); and Chemical (pesticides that can be sprayed or applied to control pests).  IPM involves trying to use these options in a compatible way and using Biological and Cultural options as the mainstay of control with Chemical options used only as support tools when necessary. 

Selecting the pesticide that will cause least disruption to biological control agents is important rather than selecting a product that might be most effective against the target pest but is disruptive to biological control agents.  If a primary producer is relying totally on pesticides to achieve control of pests then obviously, he/she is not using two-thirds of the available options.

The pests of concern will vary with location and so IPM strategies will look slightly different in different areas or even on different farms in the one area.   IPM needs to deal with all pests that the producer is worried about, not just one pest.  Therefore, there is IPM for potatoes but not, for example, IPM for aphids. 

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IPM predators received for distribution

(Image supplied by Solan)

 

Biological controls are small and can be difficult to see but there are now many agronomists who have been trained in what to look for.  Cultural controls are often very powerful and include things such as seed-source, type of irrigation, soil management, time of planting and harvest, and weed control (including self-sown potatoes).  Selecting the best pesticide if required is often difficult as information on the impact on beneficials can be hard to find.  However, there are now good, local sources of information.

For more information contact Dr Paul Horne or Jessica Page at IPM Technologies Pty Ltd.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or www.ipmtechnologies.com.au

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Brown Lacewing

(Image supplied by Dr Paul Horne IPM Technologies)

  

8. Cool Room Facility Management –post harvest for optimum production the following cycle

Besides certification; grading, handling, transport and storage practices must be continually improved with all personnel in the supply chain (as custodians) taking responsibility for the quality of the seed in their care.

The age-old question – why does some seed perform poorly?

The question often asked by seed buyers is why can otherwise good certified (virus-free) seed purchased from reputable seed producers go horribly wrong?

Before planting, the main two influences from storage conditions (and this includes the effects on seed storage by the seed producer) concern sound temperature management and airflow. Once the potential of the seed is harnessed, the value of inputs (irrigation, fertiliser, agchem, fuel and labour) will improve dramatically.

Storage conditions

Seed storage is much more important than you may think, even before entering cool storage. Just because “most of the time” the seed is “pretty right”, doesn’t mean that this was managed correctly by design, it just means some things happened to fall in place. The potential for better performing crops from seed is still very large.

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Cool storage facility (Image supplied by Solan)

 

Temperature is critical

Heat is the biggest enemy as seed exposed to too much, or to a variation in heat will result in weakened plants. Seed should not be exposed to excessive temperatures (above mid-teens) or even left in moderate but fluctuating temperatures (mid-teens) if you want to store it for a long time to produce a decent crop.

Part of the issue is understanding what the seed producer has done to the seed before you get it so communication is also very important. If seed has excessive sprouts in length, then it will be weakened more than seed that has shoots only 1cm long at planting. Such weakened seed will emerge unevenly, grow smaller tops, produce smaller tubers and die more quickly.

Solution – communicate with your seed supplier before and during seed storage about these issues and get agreement on what is required. If you want to keep sprouts under control, get seed into cool storage as soon as possible after seed harvest, ideally at least 3 weeks from expected dormancy break.

Air circulation, fresh air and temperature management during seed storage is critical

This is often not considered sufficiently in the storage equation.

Questions

  • Do you know what your air circulation is like for stored seed?
  • How many cubic metres of air is replaced per hour for every tonne of seed?

If you are not sure, then get to know what it is. You need to not only get oxygen into, and stale air out of the seedstack, but you should aim to manage seed temperature down to its holding temperature in a measured way over a 4-6 week period, and conversely, increase its temperature slowly in readiness for planting. This takes planning and a well-designed and automated ventilation system to transfer heat (evenly from the stack) out of the coolstore. If you cannot feel any air flow in your coolstore when the fans are on, then it is not being managed to a high standard. An active ventilation system that is running should create a light draught that you will feel in most places in the coolstore. Fan capacity should be capable of replacing around 80 cubic metres of air per hour per tonne of potatoes.

Solution – check your seed storage air flows. If you do not have an active ventilation system, get one!

Ideally, you should install an active, temperature managing, automated air ventilation system capable of replacing around 80 cubic metres or air per hour per tonne of seed. Bin stacking plans in the coolstore must also be made and managed correctly as part of the solution.


Please see the following papers:

Please also see information regarding Sutton Bridge CSR, the leading post-harvest applied research facility for agricultural storage in the UK. It is the primary independent centre providing potato storage research and advice to the GB industry.

And World Potato Congress Inc (WPC) webinars of interest:

 

9. Data sheets with information on potato varieties provided by breeders

There is a range of technical sheets provided by some breeders for their varieties. The information included in technical sheets may contain all or some of the following:

  • Tuber characteristics
  • Yield
  • Disease resistance
  • Maturity
  • Growing Advice
  • Eating characteristics

Potato Toolbox: provides a potato variety database, calculators for nutrient application, business tools etc.

Please refer to the following link for a database on: International and Australian Breeders