Maintenance of the national public invitro potato collection
The National public potato in vitro collection is maintained at ViCSPA, Toolangi with 94 cultivars/clones and at Stoney Rise, Devonport at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture having 147 cultivars/clones. This collection is made up of accessions of cultivars and various clones of cultivars that are held in the public domain and they are publically available and not subject to plant breeders rights. All material within the collection is available based on a request. Alongside the public collection, but separately managed is the private collection of privately funded cultivars which have restricted release based on commercial agreements and plant breeder rights. The production of pathogen-tested stocks from tissue culture provides the Australian potato industry with a vital cultural control method for the major plant diseases that can adversely affect yield and quality of production. The shelf life of the in vitro collection is limited. Each year all of the accessions of cultivars within the collection go through a sub culturing process to maintain their viability, and undergo testing for fungal and bacterial contamination to maintain the high health status. The National public potato in vitro collection ensures that there is a genetic resource of potato cultivars grown in Australia and is a vital depository of potato cultivars for the generation of high health potatoes and the basis for seed certification. It is a very important industry resource for maintaining industry access to potato germplasm and biodiversity. As market drivers change, so does the varieties used, which could involve the new exploitation of an old variety. This has been recently observed in the case of Snowden – a variety once discarded now finding a place in modern production. The future of the public cultivar collection is at risk. ViCSPA and TIA have funded the collection for the past 3 years while alternative funding arrangements were being considered. However, both organisations are unable to continue funding the ongoing maintenance of the public collection without renewed funding from industry.