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The value of using crop wild relatives in potato breeding


Farmers in the Andes Mountains may have to battle to keep weedy wild potatoes in check, but these wild relatives are very important for crop breeders and genetic diversity worldwide.

According to Dr Shelley Jansky, a potato crop breeder with the USDA, “There are over 100 wild potato species and breeders have just scratched the surface for new variety development. As climate change and a growing population put additional strains on potato growers, we will continue to explore the possibilities offered by this rich genetic resource.”

Wild potatoes provide genetic resources for disease resistance, adaptability to weather conditions, and even flavour.

Solanum chacoense is one of the most broadly adapted wild potato species and has been collected extensively by scientists around the world. It carries a broad array of genes of interest to potato breeders. One clone in Dr Jansky’s program, named C545, has S. chacoense as a maternal grandparent, with another wild potato, S. berthaultii, as a paternal grandparent. C545 has resistance to several important diseases, including Verticillium wilt, potato virus Y, soft rot, common scab, and early blight.

“Verticillium wilt resistant breeding line, C287, features S. berthaultii as a grandparent on both sides of its pedigree,” adds Jansky. “When I was a graduate student (a few decades ago) I created and selected two clones that I named S438 and S440. These selections have S. berthaultii as a grandparent and have been used extensively as a source of improved processing quality in the development of new potato varieties.”

Photo Credit: Shelley Jansky