Next year, HZPC expects to have the first prototype of a hybrid potato variety in its hands. These potatoes are sown instead of planted, which offers prospects for the food security of areas that are hard to reach. A high germination rate for seeds is important in order to compete with other potato varieties. Plant Sciences student Shivani Bhanvadia from India participated in research into the germination process of hybrid potatoes during her internship at HZPC.
She had already mapped out her career path after her two-year master’s in Plant Biotechnology at the University of Wageningen: she wanted to obtain a PhD and further develop in fundamental research. Until Shivani discovered during her internship at HZPC that you really make a difference with applied research. “The development of hybrid potato varieties has a direct impact on the food supply for countries in Africa, for example. It would not surprise me either that in the long term it will even cause a revolution in the potato world. It is very exciting to work on a project with such an impact on the world “
With your feet in the clay
Shivani was lucky to be able to experience the potato season from start to finish during her internship. She not only worked in the laboratory, but was also regularly found in the greenhouses or in the field. Literally with our feet in the clay: “For the first time the theory came to life for me. I really enjoyed that. At the start of my internship, I received a lot of guidance and direction from my colleagues, but I got more and more freedom. Ultimately, I worked completely independently on setting up and conducting research into the germination process. “
Developing a new standard
In agriculture, testing and breeding crop seeds for the highest possible germination percentage is nothing new. But that is a different story for hybrid potato seeds: there are therefore no standardised seed tests available. While the germination percentage is so decisive for the yield. If only 50 percent of the seeds actually germinate, the grower will not get enough value for money and hybrid potatoes will lose the competition from other potato varieties.
An educational time
Wageningen University is surrounded by companies where students can do an internship. An internship in the far North is therefore not an obvious choice, but according to Shivani it is certainly recommended: “I have always been interested in potatoes and HZPC is a leading company, globally as well as domestically. It’s an interesting place to work. The open culture, the pleasant environment with colleagues and the trust I received, mean that I really look back on my internship at HZPC with great pleasure. I have grown enormously as a person and as a professional. “