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Biotech potato breeding project looks to knock out late blight

Potato versus fungus; fungus wins – TKO. Phytophthora infestans is an aggressive foe wiping out entire potato crops each season. The fight against late blight globally is an expensive one, and its purse is hefty, with stakeholders losing billions of dollars each year.

Realizing the need to jab at the late blight problem, the Feed the Future Biotechnology Potato Partnership has stepped into the ring with the development of a 3 R-gene (R = resistance gene) late blight resistant potato. The potato contains the insertion of late blight resistant Rpi-blb2, Rpi-vnt1, and Rpimcq1 genes from wild potato varieties.

Confined field trials conducted at MSU in 2017 show that potato lines with the 3-R
gene construct provided much greater resistance to late blight over earlier developed lines with a single resistant gene.

The biotech potato, developed by Simplot Plant Sciences, is nearing field testing, according to Dave Douches, Project Director and Director of the Potato Breeding and Genetics Program at Michigan State University (MSU).

“After 20 years of breeding and genetics research to develop late blight resistant potato varieties it’s exciting to be so close to seeing a potato with durable resistance perform in the field,” Douches says.

This article was published in the launch issue of the new Global Potato News magazine. The full article can be accessed here