The breeding programme was started by Cambridge University in the 1920’s and became part of the Plant Breeding Institute’s activities in 1954; the home of the UK’s most widely grown potato variety, Maris Piper, was purchased by the Alexander Harley Seeds Group in 1999.

Breeding is carried out at the Cygnet PB base in Milnathort, Scotland where the team cross-pollinate carefully selected parental material to produce genetically unique “true seed”.

In the following year, these seeds are  grown in a protected environment where they produce tubers. The most uniform tuber from each clone is retained at harvest and planted together in “family groups” in the field the following year.

Each year, the most promising clones are selected and retained for further multiplication based on a number of criteria from size, shape, yield, disease resistances, storage and cooking qualities and tubers are sent to a number of trial sites both throughout the UK and overseas.

From the second year onwards clones are trialled at Cygnet PB’s site in Cambridgeshire in the heart of the UK’s main potato growing regions, where detailed information about the individual clones is collected. The breeding programme has a strong focus towards selecting clones that will suit the potato processing industries in domestic as well as overseas markets.

Overseas trials in the more arid regions of Spain test the clones for tolerance to heat and drought stresses. Trials with a number of external organisations provide further, independent data on agronomic features, disease and pest resistance.

Recent successes from the breeding programme include La Strada, leading the way with production in hot countries, Manhattan which is accepted by all of the UK’s major retailers and the high-yielding, all-round pre-pack / processing variety, Kingsman.

If you wish to know more about our breeding programme and variety development please email to: