Potato diseases: War and peace, Verticillium style

Insights into the complex relationship between potato plants and this pathogen are helping to advance development of resistance cultivars. Verticillium dahliae, a soil-borne fungus, causes wilt, yellowing, necrosis and early dying in potato. This yield-robbing pathogen is tough to manage, has a broad host range, and is known to survive in the soil for up to about five years. Potato cultivars with improved resistance to Verticillium would be a great tool for growers. Now, Canadian research into the complicated interactions between potato plants and this pathogen has come up with a more effective way to select for Verticillium-resistant cultivars. Dr. Helen Tai, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) who is leading this research, Tai and her colleagues have been getting down to the nuts and bolts – the genes and genomics – of exactly what is happening in Verticillium dahliae-induced early dying. “We called this ‘War and Peace’ genetic mapping to represent the two kinds of relationships between the plant and the pathogen.” Overall, her research has the potential to contribute to the development of better tools for growers to manage Verticillium wilt and potato early dying. More