Annemarie first got to know the breeding and research company Agrico Research BV through a work placement. The 'love' was mutual, and as a result of her final year assignment Annemarie was offered a job as a molecular biology analyst. Employee and employer certainly do not seem to have gotten tired of each other just yet!
Annemarie de Ruiter-Nicolaas, molecular biological analyst
I have been working for Agrico Research as a molecular biology analyst since August 2007. My main area of focus is research into resistance to two potatoes diseases: the potato cyst nematode (Globodera spp.) and late blight, which is caused by a fungus (Phytophthora infestans). The damage these organisms cause to potato plants has a detrimental impact on yields. So the development of varieties that are resistant to these diseases is an extremely important and interesting task. Resistance to these diseases is often found in wild potato varieties. Wild potatoes occur in Mexico and South America and differ from our potato in the number of chromosomes. Using these varieties in hybridisation programmes is a long, slow process and requires a targeted project-based approach. Over the years I have gained more and more specialist knowledge in these projects. Learning about the different resistance genes, how they work and the level of resistance was key in these projects.
My first weeks at Agrico
Before I joined Agrico Research in August 2007, I had already done an internship and a graduation assignment here. Because we made such a good impression on each other and because there was room in the organisation at the time, my role was turned into a full-time position. As I was already familiar with the company, I really enjoyed my first few weeks and I felt very much at home. Of course, I still had to find my feet to a certain extent to begin with, because more is expected of you as an employee than as an intern. But the combination of a great team of enthusiastic, friendly and driven colleagues and my own motivation made this time much easier.
Over the last few years I have been able to develop and improve in various areas. One of the things I have learned is how to combine working on your own and working in a team. And I also find it much easier to present results to our affiliated growers now!
Discovering completely new resistance genes
When I look back over my time at Agrico Research, one of the highlights has definitely been the discovery of completely new genes that are resistant to these two potato organisms, P. infestans and potato cyst nematode. Discovering new, as yet unknown resistance genes enables you to develop new cross parents which you can go on to use as the basis for new varieties that are resistant to these diseases. As selection on the basis of resistance and agricultural properties takes several years, it will be a while before we are able to deliver varieties with these new genes.
Agrico Research as an employer
I find the culture at Agrico Research informal, open and friendly. For me Agrico Research is an attractive employer, because you're given all the space you need to develop independently and keep on learning together with your colleagues!