Genes in storage: Husband and wife team dig into what genes lead to longer potato storability

One would hardly consider Nevada to be potato country. Livestock is far and away the agricultural king in the Silver State, and all other commodities bow down before it. But in a lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, work is being done that researchers believe could eventually prevent the loss millions of tons of potatoes each year in the U.S. With the help of a $1.37 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), husband-and-wife team Dylan Kosma and Patricia Santos hope to discover, on a genetic level, ways to mitigate—if not eliminate—tuber loss in storage. The current NSF-funded project at the Kosma-Santos lab is focused on understanding the genetic reasons some potato varieties store better, for longer periods of time, than others—a question that has plagued the chip industry for years. More

NL: Potato breeder Solynta secures €16 million in backing

Potato breeder Solynta announced the completion of a €16 million series B financing round by new investors Fortissimo Capital and Innovation Industries as well as existing investors. Solynta will use this financing round to continue its potato breeding activities and to build a strong commercial organisation that can address the billion dollar challenges within the potato supply chain. Solynta is headquartered in the Netherlands and has established a hybrid potato breeding based on pure inbred parent lines, a (non-GMO) breeding technology platform. This enables a seed based supply chain which would allow 25 grams of seeds as starting material instead of 2500 kilogram of tubers. More

US: USDA grant to boost potato breeding research

US Senators Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine say the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $388,000 to the University of Maine to study ways to improve quality and pest resistance of potatoes. The money will be used to study potato breeding with a goal of increasing productivity and profitability for farms large and small. The senators say the University of Maine will serve as the lead on an eastern potato breeding project focused on developing attractive, productive, disease- and insect-resistant potato varieties. Collins and King say the funding will “build on our strong agricultural traditions so we can make Maine potato products more economically resilient.” (Source: Associated Press)

Netherlands: Agrico claims “double the yield with resistant organic potato varieties”

“Within three years, we want to fill at least half of our planted area with resistant potatoes,” says Peter Dijk on behalf of Agrico. The potato breeding company from Emmeloord, the Netherlands, currently grows organic consumption potatoes on a total of 500 hectares. “Potato varieties resistant to the potato disease Phytophthora are growing on an ever-increasing surface.” Regarding yields, Agrico is very satisfied about these varieties: “If the fungus shows up early in the season, it doesn’t make much difference if there’s a resistant or non-resistant variety on the field. If the fungus shows up late in the season, the resistant variety scores very high so far. With resistant varieties, we even realise a double yield sometimes. …We have to realise a more acceptable price level for resistant organic potatoes. A higher yield is necessary for that. We have the resistant varieties, but now growers have to start profiting from them.” More

Simplot partners with Spanish biotech company to enhance nutritional properties of potatoes

Image result for J.R. Simplot Company para el descubrimiento de genes para la mejora de la patataIden Biotechnology – a Spanish biotechnology company – and J.R. Simplot Company, a potato processor and developer and marketer of Innate® GMO potatoes, recently entered into an agreement to explore the potential for nutritional enrichment of the potato. As part of the agreement, Iden will identify promising genes for potential use in Simplot’s proprietary Innate® biotechnology platform. Iden has established other industrial collaborations for gene trait discovery and development in row crops like wheat and corn. More. News release in Spanish

Video: New Mexico State University researchers conduct field trials of South American potato, papa criolla

Woman in hat holding potato plantNew Mexico State University is collaborating with U.S. Department of Agriculture research geneticist Kathy Haynes to conduct field trials of the South American potato, papa criolla, that she has breed to grow in the United States. White-fleshed potatoes typically grown in the United States are low in carotenoids that act as antioxidants for healthy eyes. The most well-known carotenoid is beta-carotene found in carrots. The carotenoids in the South American papa criolla potatoes, which make the potato yellow-fleshed, are lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent age-related macular degeneration. At least one study has suggested that zeaxanthin also improves mental acuity in elderly people. “Yukon Gold, a yellow-flesh potato that consumers are familiar with, has these carotenoids,” Haynes said. “Comparatively, the papa criolla types have 10-20 times more lutein and zeaxanthin than Yukon Gold.” Watch YouTube video. More information will be presented at the New Mexico Sustainable Agriculture Conference Wednesday, Dec. 13. Also see this press release

Ireland: Is the wild potato the key to less fungicide use on spuds?

potatoScience week in Teagasc Oakpark has opened up students minds to the humble spud and the wild potato continued to come up in conversation. Why? The answer is simply potato blight, as the wild potatoes found in South America are resistant to blight. Some of these potatoes might not be as tasty or suitable for the supermarket, but they have one very important quality – they aren’t susceptible to blight. Oakpark is the home of potato breeding in Ireland and while it has successfully bred many different breeds, potato blight remains the big threat to the industry. Denis Griffin, a Teagasc research officer with Teagasc , stated: “One of the big pressure points for potatoes is still late blight. We have to spray the susceptible varieties 12-15 times. …One of our major goals over the next few years is to try and introduce resistant genes from wild species for late blight and reduce the amount of pesticides we have to use.” More

US: Valuable potato specimens transferred to Wisconsin State Herbarium

David Spooner is a taxonomist in the horticulture department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, charged with traveling the world to gather plant specimens that could be useful to plant breeders and then carefully organizing the plants by their relatedness. At the end of October, Spooner transferred a large collection of potato specimens in the form of pressed plants from the U.S. Potato Genebank in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, to the Wisconsin State Herbarium housed on the UW–Madison campus. The donation is a significant boon for the 1.3 million-specimen herbarium on campus. “What makes the herbarium samples valuable is that they cover the majority of the potato species diversity,” says Spooner. “The purpose of the germplasm collections is to be useful breeding stock to improve disease resistance or agronomic traits like productivity and color.” More

Czech Republic creates tuber for health-conscious purple-potato eaters

 

In October, the the Potato Research Institute in the east-Bohemian city of Havlíčkův Brod in the Czech Republic, introduced the “Val Blue,” a debut 11 years in the making and the first new variety of potato bred at the Institute since 2005. Like most potatoes, Val is fairly unprepossessing at first glance. But inside, its flesh is a rich, royal violet color, which cooks up to a purple shade straight out of a box of Crayolas. The texture is smooth and dense, the flavor earthy and fairly non-distinctive. Rather like a potato, PRI geneticist Jaroslava Domkářová notes with a smile. According to Domkářová, the Val Blue’s vivid purple color is 30 percent more intense than that of its “mother” potato, the PRI-bred “Valfi.” Its trademark hue indicates an antioxidant load surpassing its white- and yellow-flesh relatives two or three times over. According to Domkářová, of the approximately 1,500 varieties of potato grown in the European Union, the Val Blue belongs to a rare cohort. More

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

Research: Sequenced potato genomes could speed development of disease-resistant varieties

Examining the ancestors of the modern, North American cultivated potato has revealed a set of common genes and important genetic pathways that have helped spuds adapt over thousands of years. The modern spuds found in today’s kitchens are genetically complex tetraploid potatoes, having four times the regular number of chromosomes. Potatoes’ complex genome harbors an estimated 39,000 genes. (In comparison, the human genome comprises roughly 20,000 genes.) From the large gene pool, researchers identified 2,622 genes that drove the crop’s early improvement when first domesticated. Studying the gene diversity spectrum, from its wild past to its cultivated present, can provide an essential source of untapped adaptive potential, said Robin Buell, Michigan State University Foundation Professor of Plant Biology and senior author of the paper, published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Continue reading

Yellow-fleshed, ‘golden’ potato delivers bounty of vitamins A and E

'Golden' potato delivers bounty of vitamins A and EAn experimental yellow-fleshed, “golden” potato could hold the power to prevent disease and death in developing countries where residents rely heavily upon the starchy food for sustenance, new research suggests. A serving of the yellow-orange lab-engineered potato has the potential to provide as much as 42 percent of a child’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 34 percent of a child’s recommended intake of vitamin E, according to a recent study co-led by researchers at The Ohio State University. Women of reproductive age could get 15 percent of their recommended vitamin A and 17 percent of recommended vitamin E from that same 5.3 ounce (150 gram) serving, the researchers concluded. The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE. The golden potato, which is not commercially available, was metabolically engineered in Italy by a team that collaborated with study lead Mark Failla, professor emeritus of human nutrition at Ohio State. More

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-11-golden-potato-bounty-vitamins.html#jCp

UK: Early success for blight-resistant GM potato trial

Scientists inspect potato trial plotsA genetically modified potato variety designed to resist the devastating plant disease blight has successfully come through the first year of trials, say scientists. Worldwide, crop losses because of blight are estimated to be in excess of £3.5bn. However, scientists at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) on the Norwich Research Park are trialling a Maris Piper potato that has been modified with blight resistance genes from a wild potato relative. “The first year of the Maris Piper trial has worked brilliantly,” said Jonathan Jones, a professor and project leader at TSL. “We’ve observed resistance to late blight in all the lines.” Prof Jones said early results suggested blight-resistant potatoes could be a way to control late blight and remove the need for multiple sprays of agrochemicals. More

Research: Examining potatoes’ past could improve spuds of the future

Examining Potatoes' Past Could Improve Spuds of the FutureThe old adage of looking to the past to understand the future certainly applies to improving potatoes. Examining the ancestors of the modern, North American cultivated potato has revealed a set of common genes and important genetic pathways that have helped spuds adapt over thousands of years. Robin Buell, Michigan State University Foundation Professor of Plant Biology, shows potential genetic keys that could ensure the crop will thrive in the future. “Worldwide, potato is the third most important crop grown for direct human consumption, yet breeders have struggled to produce new varieties that outperform those released over a century ago,” Buell said. “By analyzing cultivated potato and its wild relatives using modern genomics approaches, we were able to reveal key factors that could address food security in 21st century agriculture.” More

UK: GM potato trial showing positive signs of blight resistance at Sainsbury Laboratory

The Sainsbury Laboratory is trialling a genetically-modified potato designed to be resistant to blight. Pictured are Prof Jonathan Jones (front) with his team, Dr Marina Pais (centre) and Dr Kamil Witek (back). Picture: The Sainsbury Laboratory.A genetically-modified (GM) potato designed to resist late blight has worked “brilliantly” during the first year of field trials, according to Norwich scientists. The field trial conducted by The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) on the Norwich Research Park involves incorporating three blight-resistant genes from a wild potato relative into the popular commercial variety Maris Piper. After the first year of the field trial, scientists observed a marked improvement in late blight resistance, with a stark difference in health between the resistant and non-resistant plants. Prof Jonathan Jones, who is leading the project, said the initial results offered hope that there could be a way of controlling late blight without the need for chemical fungicide sprays. More