The Simmonds experiments

More than thirty years ago, N.W. Simmonds, in Scotland, conducted a highly original experiment. He wanted to prove that modern potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) really were derived from the Solanum andigena potatoes of South America. He also wanted to show that horizontal resistance to blight could be accumulated in these very blight-susceptible potatoes. Using recurrent mass selection on a S. andigena population, and selecting for both the agronomic characteristics of modern potatoes, and quantitatively variable resistance to blight, he was able to report very considerable progress after only four generations of breeding. This progress occurred in yield, day-length neutrality, tuber qualities, and horizontal resistance to blight. Many of his selections compared quite favourably with commercial cultivars, and Simmonds called this material 'neo-tuberosum'.

Quite apart from making him one of the early pioneers of horizontal resistance, Simmonds' work provides an interesting illustration of what the members of a plant breeding club might attempt and accomplish.

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