Menu EAPR 2017

Scientific & cultural excursion No. 1

Hauts-de-France / Nord-Pas-de-Calais (1)

OVERVIEW of the Region

The Nord-Pas de Calais area is now only one part of the new French administrative Region Hauts de France since January 2016.The region « Haut de France, Nord Pas de Calais Picardie » is located in North of France, between Paris, Belgium and Great Britain (near the Channel). It is the 4th economic region of France with an international orientation. The area was heavily marked by the battles of the First World War which the centenary celebration is underway. Industries (steel, chemicals, cars, cosmetics…) dominate, but the agriculture, fishing and food industries take up a very high level. The agriculture concerns milk breeding, most major crops as cereals, sugar beet, potatoes vegetables (first region for wheat, beets, potatoes, canned vegetables). There are also some specific crops such as chicory.

Source Wikipedia

About potatoes:



5800 growers produce 62% of the French potato production. It represents 12% of European production of ware potatoes (fresh market and processing), on 76 000 ha. 

The potato starch production is 782 000t on 14000 ha. The seed potatoes are grown on 7420 ha for a production of  238 000t (40% of the French production). The yield of ware potatoes is around 50 t/ha. The potato industry is also conducted by 28 packers for the fresh market, 7 processors (French fries, crips ….) and 1 for starch. 
For seed, 17 companies are involved in commercialization and the region owns the location of the head Office of the “Comité Nord Plant” with the station of Achicourt.

Scientific visits

Comité Nord Plants de Pomme de terre – Achicourt station



Comité Nord Plants de Pomme de terre (“Northern Committee of potatoes seeds farmers” (CNPPPT)) is the association of 420 potato seeds producers located North of Paris. It produces more than 350 000 tons of certified seeds a year in 240 varieties on 13500 ha.

It ensures both a mission of official certification of potato seeds, by providing the Official Control (SOC) staff and the control laboratories (Achicourt + Bretteville), representing 60 employees.

On the other hand, the Comité Nord develops new varieties creation at the station of Bretteville in Normandy (GIE de Bretteville) (10 employees).

SIPRE (EURL Sipre) conducts experiments and research in the form of theses, post-doctorate contracts and research engineers. 15 engineers (SIPRE) are present on the site of Achicourt, with links with universities and CNRS.

With 65% of French surfaces of potato seeds, Comité Nord is the largest of the three French professional organizations composing FN3PT (National Federation of Producers of seeds Potatoes).

A team of 30 inspectors approved by SOC, under the permanent control of inspectors supervisors (sworn in SOC) and SOC regional and national officials regularly visit the field crops and storage in batches to ensure the health quality.

General Information - ACHICOURT LAB



The station contains 6 areas:

  • Administrative area
  • The ”in vitro” area: number of cuttings is currently 350 000 and 400 000 in 2013
  • Green area for the detection of virus; more than 1 million plants are tested per year
  • Orange area for the potatoes varieties identification and research (extraction of molecules that can be used for phytoprotection, cosmetics, health and nutrition).
  • Experimentation area: storage and sprouting
  • Red area for pathogen detection: bacteria, nematodes
  • Research laboratories with level 3 to manipulate quarantine pathogens (Ralstonia or Clavibacter) and epidemiology

These areas are divided into 4 buildings which do not communicate with each other.


In this area the presence of different potato pathogens is detected:

  • Quarantine bacteria (Ralstonia, Clavibacter) and quality bacteria (Pectobacterium, Dickeya)
  • Cyst Nematodes
  • Root knot nematodes
  • Fungi:  Fusarium, Phytophthora infestans (late blight), Colletotrichum coccodes (black dot), Helminthosporium solani (silver scurf), rhizoctonia …


Virology laboratory

  • A potato sample is taken in each field by the SOC inspector. Potato pieces are treated with gibberellin to remove dormancy, then, the next day, samples are planted and placed in greenhouse.
  • After 4 weeks, a leaf is taken from each plant.
  • Juices are spotted in ELISA plates to reveal the presence/absence of virus (serums are produced by FN3PT).
  • In accordance with the seed class, we are looking for 2 and 6 viruses.
  • More than 1 million of plants are analysed in this station between the end of august and the end of November.
  • This laboratory has an area of 300m2 and greenhouses: 1200m2

Area for the cutting production

  •  All seeds from Comité Nord come from the production of in vitro cuttings.
  • After the multiplication step, plants are transferred in greenhouses. The two greenhouses are insect-proof, heated with air conditioning facilty. Each greenhouse surfaces 400m2.
  • In 2016, 350 000 plants were produces in 180 different varieties.


This laboratory is used for potato DNA fingerprinting. Using microsatellites, 900 varieties known in the world are able to be identified.


This building is exclusively dedicated for the experimentation.

It contains an office, a small laboratory for samples notation, a workshop, and 3 cooling rooms with a surface of 180m2, a room for sprouting, a room for the small experimental equipment, a weighing room, a phytosanitary products storage room and a ‘phytobac’ outside (to collect phytosanitary products).

Total surface: 800m2

Field experimentation: around the station or on outside fields-Implementation of field trials of 5.5 Ha with 2000 micro-plot in 2016.

  • Establishment of GEP “Good Experimental Practice” field trials to test new pesticides  (5 field trials per year)
  • Variety evaluation 
  • Test of new hybrids
  • Agronomic tests

Experiments conducted in Comité Nord seed producer fields-Extension of production techniques

  • Practical evaluation of new products
  • Participation in national testing networks
  • Participation in projects like agronomic evaluation of intercropping, monitoring populations of pest and pathogens (CASDAR Projects)


L3S3 area : research in confinement (2.4 million euros)

Comité Nord started different research programs since 2000. The aim is to bring solutions for its seed producers, to answer to consumers requirements and to answer to environment requirements too (decrease of pesticides, decrease of water use …).

The research programs are realised in partnership with the FN3PT (National Federation of Potato Seed Producers), academic and private laboratories, INRA, CNRS, and with industrial partners too.


The SIPRE structure (Seed Innovation Protection Research Environment) manages the research and development activity since May 2011.

This structure will:  

  • Develop novel techniques to detect and to identify potato pathogens prejudicial to potato seed production (quarantine/quality pests under regulation)
  • Develop DNA fingerprinting methods
  • Develop novels alternatives methods to fight against potato pathogens (Plan Ecophyto 2018 and “Grenelle de l’environnement”).  

Those methods will be developed in this laboratory of confinement (level 3) as greenhouse assays too.

Cultural visit

Vimy and Notre Dame de Lorette: Memorial visits



Vimy Ridge National Memorial: «  Modern Canada was born in the trenches of Vimy”. The memorial stands at the heart of a park overlooking the Pas-de-Calais coal basin. The memorial, with its magnificent pylons and sculptured (6000 t of limestone) was built at the place where, on 9 April 1917, Canadia troops fighting under the standard of the maple leaf captured Vimy Ridge known as Hill 145 or “The Pimple”. Around the monument, the ground is pock marked with shell holes, mine craters and trenches.



French National War Cemetery and the Ring of Remembrance, the Memorial international, are located at Notre de Dame de Lorette. In May 1915, French troops attempted to wrest control of the Artois Hills from the German Army, they failed at Vimy Ridge but succeeded in retaking Lorette Spur, at cost of 102 000 men. The cemetery is the final resting place for 40 000 French troops, including 22 000 unknown soldiers.On the ring of Remembrance, the names of 580 000 soldiers of all nationalities who fell in French Flanders and Artois are inscribed in alphabetical order.

Nearby, an overview will also be made on Souchez Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery with 7655 commonwealth burial of the Great War, German Military Cemetery of Neuville-st-Vaast, Neuville-St Vaast Memorial to Polish Volunteers, Czechoslovak Memorial … 

Web sites


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