Potato is an important food crop with high water-use-efficiency but low drought tolerance. The bottleneck in drought tolerance breeding is phenotyping in managed field environments. Fundamental research on drought tolerance is predominantly done in container-based test systems in controlled environments. However, the portability of results from these systems to performance under field conditions is debated. Thus, we analyzed the effects of climate conditions, container size, starting material, and substrate on yield and drought tolerance assessment of potato genotypes compared to field trials. A leave one out assessment indicated a minimum of three field trials for stable tolerance prediction. The tolerance ranking was highly reproducible under controlled-conditions, but weakly correlated with field performance. Changing to variable climate conditions, increasing container size, and substituting cuttings by seed tubers did not improve the correlation. Substituting horticultural substrate by sandy soil resulted in yield and tuber size distributions similar to those under field conditions. However, as the effect of the treatment × genotype × substrate interaction on yield was low, drought tolerance indices that depend on relative yields can be assessed on horticultural substrate also. Realistic estimates of tuber yield and tuber size distribution, however, require the use of soil-based substrates.
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