Studies reveal evolution of potato late blight

Plant scientists at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland are working with industry and research partners to track the distribution and diversity of dominant late blight clones in potato in Europe in 2020. They have also contributed to a review into the development of the disease in Asia in the last 150 years, as part of global efforts to improve the sustainable production of healthy potato crops.

The EuroBlight consortium, which includes Aarhus University, Wageningen University and INRAE, has tracked the European spatial distribution of Phytophthora infestans since 2013, and has added new data that visualises the distribution and diversity of dominant clones in the 2020 crop. The report, which is available on the research group website, collates information from 1221 samples collected in 28 countries and genotyped in 2020.

James Hutton Institute researcher Dr David Cooke, co-leader of the EuroBlight study, said, “The blight pressure in 2020 was lower than average with a prolonged spell of warm, dry weather early in the season which checked the development of the disease in many regions. The proportions of the main clones in the 2020 population structure were broadly similar to those reported in 2019. Three clones that first appeared in 2013 (EU_41_A2), 2014 (EU_37_A2, EU_36_A2) and EU_43, named in 2020, made up 40% of the 2020 population.”

As part of this scientific effort, Dr David Cooke is supporting the pathogen genotyping work and has contributed to a review, along with colleagues at West Bengal State University and Queen’s University Belfast, into the development of potato late blight in Asia from 1870 to 2020. The work shows clear evidence of the spread to Asia of several clonal lineages of P. infestans from Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America.

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