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The Backup of the Nordic potato collection was recently inaugurated by the Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

The safety duplicate of the Nordic potato collection, recently relocated to SPK in Tyrnävä, was inaugurated on March 14


by the Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. The potato collection contains genetic traits that are very important for agriculture and future food production. Especially for developing new Nordic potato varieties, more competitive and better adapted to climate changes.

NordGen is responsible for the long-term conservation of the Nordic potato collection, which includes 95 different varieties of potatoes from the Nordic countries, including the Faroe Islands. The potato collection is placed at NordGen’s head office in Alnarp, Sweden. But just as with any genebank collection, it is important to have a backup. This safety duplicate is now stored at the Finnish Seed Potato Centre Ltd (SPK) in Tyrnävä, outside Oulu. On March 14


, the facilities were inaugurated by the Finnish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Jari Leppä. – We are very happy that NordGen has opened operations in Finland. The move of the potato collection to SPK opens up new possibilities for a broader Nordic cooperation. Potato is an important crop in the Nordic countries and potato production has long traditions in Finland. – The choice of SPK is a sign of confidence in the high standard of the potato sector in Finland. NordGen has found an extremely experienced and stable actor, who is well prepared to care for the backup of the Nordic Potato Collection, says Jari Leppä.

Potatoes of the Future

Climate change presents the agriculture with great challenges. Prolonged periods of drought and persistent rain are likely to mean that Nordic potato producers will have more problems with different diseases in the future. Therefore, it is important to develop Nordic varieties with a better resistance. – We hope that the cooperation with SPK and other Finnish parties can be deepened in the future. We must face these challenges together. Potatoes are an important part in the Nordic agriculture, and we need to develop resilient and competitive varieties for the future, says Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive Director at NordGen. Potato varieties are not kept in genebanks as seed samples because that would change the genetic characteristics. Therefore, the potato collection is preserved as living plants, clones, in glass tubes. To avoid the plants being infected by virus diseases, the potato collection is handled and stored in vitro

, ie in a sterile environment. At SPK, about 30 potato varieties are produced for various purposes and the company has extensive experience of working with potato plants in vitro.

– I am very happy that we were finally able to have this day after several years of planning and ideas about having the collection partly in Finland. Also, now when we have a very sad situation in the world, this kind of new co-operation gives us hope, says Paula Ilola, Managing Director of SPK.

Resistant Potato Variety

Conserving and utilizing the collection is important for the future potato cultivation in the Nordic region. 17 of the potato varieties are donated from Finland. One example is Hankkijan Tuomas

, a cultivar which is no longer available on the market but carries important resistance traits to several different diseases. Another interesting example is Vaaniin Herkku

which is considered to be the oldest Finnish potato variety conserved today. – The global plant breeding companies work mainly towards the markets in Central Europe. But Scandinavian cultivation conditions are very different, so it is important to maintain a gene pool suitable for breeding activities in our countries, says Paula Ilola.

Nordic Cooperation

The cooperation with NordGen is well suited to Tyrnävä, which belongs to the protected region for high class seed potatoes designated by EU. There are mutual benefits to be gained from this co-operation. By moving the safety backup of the potato collection to Finland, NordGen now conducts conservation operations in four Nordic countries. – Moving the backup to Finland is important for the Nordic cooperation on genetic resources. It feels especially appropriate since Finland has long and proud traditions of potato production and breeding, says Lise Lykke Steffensen.