Since its introduction in 2015, CRISPR-Cas 9 has taken the scientific world by storm. Gene editing has allowed potato breeders to tackle major production issues, such as drought tolerance and disease pressure, as well as quality-related issues like browning.
Two projects make clear the potential of the technology for the industry. The first project addresses the oxidization of potatoes, while the other uses the technology as an approach for broad disease resistance.
Research scientist Junqi Song is the principal investigator of a team that believes gene editing could hold the key to unlocking broad-spectrum disease resistance in staple crops, including potato. Song is a plant pathologist based at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Dallas. His team has been focusing on late blight disease in tomato and potato.
While much of the research being done in gene editing switches genes off, Song is using the more complicated “knock-in” approach. The knock-in approach, he explained, introduces a new system, which increases the plants’ existing defense responses as they come into contact with pathogens.