Compared to other major food crops, progress in potato yield as the result of breeding efforts is very slow. Genetic gains cannot be fixed in potato due to obligatory out-breeding. Overcoming inbreeding depression using diploid self-compatible clones should enable to replace the current method of out-breeding and clonal propagation into an F1 hybrid system with true seeds. This idea is not new, but has long been considered unrealistic. Severe inbreeding depression and self-incompatibility in diploid germplasm have hitherto blocked the development of inbred lines. Back-crossing with a homozygous progenitor with the Sli gene which inhibits gametophytic self-incompatibility gave self-compatible offspring from elite material from our diploid breeding programme. We demonstrate that homozygous fixation of donor alleles is possible, with simultaneous improvement of tuber shape and tuber size grading of the recipient inbred line. These results provide proof of principle for F1 hybrid potato breeding. The technical and economic perspectives are unprecedented as these will enable the development of new products with combinations of useful traits for all stakeholders in the potato chain. In addition, the hybrid’s seeds are produced by crossings, rendering the production and voluminous transport of potato seed tubers redundant as it can be replaced by direct sowing or the use of healthy mini-tubers, raised in greenhouses.
Pim Lindhout, Dennis Meijer, Theo Schotte, Ronald C. B. Hutten, Richard G. F. Visser & Herman J. van Eck