Forty years ago, when I was working in Turkey, I met another young man called Anton Haverkort, just setting out on his career. He grew up on a potato farm in the Netherlands, studied potatoes, and came to Turkey to work for the International Potato Centre at their base in the Menemen Research Institute near Izmir. He is now recognised as an award winning leading world expert on potatoes and has writtien ‘Potato handbook – Crop of the Future’, a magnum opus covering potatoes in society, the plant, propagation material, environment and cultivation, running to almost 600 pages. I went to meet up with him again in Wageningen, where he was a professor for many years, to hear his take on potatoes in the world today, and about the impact climate change and genetics will have on potatoes in the future.
As you heard, he is very much a technological optimist and proponent for using all the new techniques available to increase potato production in the future. By chance, I also met his older brother, Bertus, very briefly, and found out he had taken a different tack to Anton in looking at food and farming, focussing on the different ways different societies and cultures understand the world and use their knowledge and understanding about it. His work focuses on indigenous knowledge, agroecology and different approaches to science and use of knowledge. I wasn’t around for what I expect would be rather lively conversations between them but did see some of his books, pictured below. He is currently working on a contribution to a new book provisionally entitled ‘Agroecology, indigenous epistemologies and cognitive justice’ for the University of Coventry’. Here are some of the titles he authored:
For a non GM approach to breeding blight resistance potatoes take a look at this earlier blog with an interview with Dr David Shaw, of the Sarvari Research Trust here. The trust is still going despite doubts about its future at the time of my earlier blog.