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Harro Bouwmeester from UvA’s Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences was awarded an NWO Partnership grant, worth €1.2 million, for the development of alternative approaches to pesticide control in potato crops. The project is part of the Holland Innovative Potato programme, and will be conducted in collaboration with researchers from WUR and the companies Averis and SciENZA.


Potato production under threat

Potato is an important food and industrial crop in the Netherlands. However, sustainable potato production is threatened by the potato cyst nematodes G. pallida and G. rostochiensis. These are obligate endoparasites, which means that they entirely depend on their host for survival. They live in and from the roots of potato causing growth retardation, damage to the roots and early senescence of plants. 

In the past, large amounts of pesticides were used to protect potato against these nematodes but many of these pesticides have been banned. Therefore, there is a great need for alternative control methods based on natural plant resistance.

Chemical communication

In the project, Bouwmeester's Plant Hormone Biology research group will collaborate with WUR colleagues Aska Goverse (Laboratory of Nematology), Gerard van der Linden (Plant Breeding) and Elio Schijlen (Plant Research International). The researchers will study the chemical communication between potato and potato cyst nematode (PCN) and use this knowledge to develop alternative approaches to improve PCN control in potato. This should result in a sustainable improvement of yield stability in Dutch potato cultivation. 

Public-private partnership

The project will be conducted in collaboration with the potato breeding company Averis and biotechnology firm SciENZA. NWO Partnership grants are part of the NWO domain Applied and Technological Sciences (TTW) and are set up with the aim to 'connect innovators' from academia and industry in public-private collaboration.