France : the country for high quality seed potatoes
France is a land well known for the production of high quality seed potatoes. Indeed, it benefits from favourable and diversified soils and climates, as well as a network of skills at all levels of the production chain, from breeding to marketing. Furthermore, all the players in the chain have defined a common set of very rigorous production rules to obtain high quality seed potatoes, in particular from the health.phpect.
Favourable soils and climates for seed potato production
France is in a special pedo-climatic position to produce high quality seed potatoes in a wide range of varieties.
Over 350 varieties are propagated on 16,000 hectares spread over 3 major agricultural régions : the North, the West and the South central area.
These regions, with a cool, damp climate, benefit from recognised superior sanitary advantages (healthy soil and environment).
Wide open spaces and long growing rotation cycles, generally of 7 or 8 years, help preserve this sanitary advantage.
And finally, the diversified pedo-climatic conditions favour the production of seed potatoes in a wide range of varieties.
Over 30 years of close relations between public research and professionals
For more than 30 years, the professionals, the breeding stations and the INRA (National Institute for Agronomic Research) have built up close, lasting relations covering the whole gamut of potato research : development of the parental lines, breeding rmethodologies,research into diseases (fungi, viruses, bacteria, nematodes).
This collaboration has enabled the whole chain to keep its technical services at the cutting edge of progress to take account of farmers' requirements and meet market demands and trends.
Dynamic plant breeding for all the consumer niches
This is done by 4 stations, 3 professional ones set up at the initiative of the seed potato growers (BRETAGNE PLANTS, COMITE NORD and GROCEP) and one private station (GERMICOPA), which collaborate with many partners (growers, co-operatives, traders). These stations, which have between 20 and 40 years' experience, have reached operational maturity.
They breed varieties for their culinary and technological qualities, as well as their resistance to disease.
They depend on a vast network of trials in Europe to assess the plants' agronomic behaviour. Every year, they register new varieties in all consumer niches : ware potatoes (early varieties, firm flesh...), export, processing (crisps, chips, starch...).
Rigorous seed potato production methods
To achieve a high level of quality, the professionals in the chain have established a very strict seed potato production scheme. All the selection material comes from in vitro cultures. Then the first year of propagation takes place protected from any contamination, in insect-proof tunnels and on disinfected substrates or with soil-less cultivation. This rigorous scheme leads to a limited number of generations in the field to obtain the Super Elite (SE), Elite (E) and certified (A) classes.
Production subject to intensive inspections
3 Regional Producers Establishments (EPR), with a total team of 60 inspectors and 3 specialized laboratories, under authority of the Official Control and Certification Service (SOC), carry out intensive inspections at all levels of seed potato production :
The number of analyses carried out in the EPR laboratories has risen steadily during the last few years as a result of a real desire by the professionals to achieve a quality level that is increasingly high and far above the regulatory standards.
Moreover, France has set much stricter certification standards than the European Directives.
Well-equipped growers with highly technical methods
Seed potato production work in the field is entrusted to extremely skilled, highly specialised farmers. This production is carried out by 900 growers on over 16,000 hectares. It requires a high level of know-how and appropriate equipment both for production and for storage. Over 40% of the propagation areas are sifted and over 40% are irrigated.