Plant Breeders' Rights

The early potato breeders (Paterson, Findlay and others) raised their varieties for an unregulated market. It was difficult for a breeder to derive any financial benefit from his work.

It took a prodigious effort to produce a new variety. Usually the breeder would have to make what he could from it, with no prospect of a 'royalty' payment, and no legal redress if someone propagated and sold it under another name.

This was common; at one time, 'Up-to-Date' was being sold under 200 different pseudonyms.

From about 1920 there began state funded breeding programmes. These resulted in a succession of worthwhile potatoes, including the 'Craigs' and 'Pentlands' from Pentlandfield, and the Maris series from Maris Lane, Cambridge.

In the early 1970s, things changed. Plant breeders' Rights were introduced into the UK. These offered legal protection and royalties to the breeder. They also prevented unauthorized production, marketing or propagation.

In the UK the rights lapse after 30 years.

The change in the law led to companies and breeders developing their own collections of varieties. The Dutch, with their long expertise in getting the most from limited land area, had (and have) a network of hobby breeders supported by their own agricultural industry. They have given us Record, Estima, Penta, Wilja, Cosmos, Marfona, and a host of others.

Dr. Jack Dunnett, a breeder at Pentlandfield, saw that it was now possible for an independent breeder to make a living. He set up his own company, Caithness Potatoes, in 1976, and has since raised and released a string of commercially successful potatoes, the first one of which is known to almost everyone - Nadine.

ND / Diversity website

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