Researchers from the James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee in Scotland have warned that the limited genetics available to modern potato crops means that current varieties are likely to remain susceptible to late blight disease.
Dr Ingo Hein, a senior scientist based at the Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences group said, “By using the dRenSeq and PenSeq tools we have developed here in Scotland in collaboration with peers at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, they are able for the first time ever to track the historical and geographical patterns of resilient genes in American and British potatoes.”
“Our preliminary data suggests that the most commercially valuable potato varieties grown in the UK and US contain a maximum of four genes already defeated by the late blight pathogen, P. infestans.”
“Crucially, we have also been able to identify new genes that remain effective against this disease which are not current used in commercial potato production and so by combining these effective genes we can prolong the longevity of individual resistances to the disease and reduce the need for chemical sprays on plants.”
Dr Hein has been awarded £625k in funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to continue identifying the more resilient potatoes with industry partners McCain Foods, Greenvale and James Hutton Limited.
Picture caption: Dr Ingo Hein of the University of Dundee
Photo source: University of Dundee – Roger Hyam