Late blight expert: ‘How do you disarm Phytophthora?’

Plant breeders regularly claim to have developed a new potato variety that is resistant to the harmful micro-organism Phytophthora infestans (see inset). By cross-breeding they have introduced a resistance gene that they think will keep the little fungus-like pathogen out. But Francine Govers, professor in Phytopathology and a leading expert on Phytophthora, never makes these kinds of claims. She knows that the stubborn pathogen cannot be stopped with a single resistance gene and will get around this new defence barrier sooner or later. So, Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands is looking for heavier weaponry with which to protect potatoes from Phytophthora infection. Firstly, Govers and colleagues at the Laboratory for Plant Breeding are looking into how they can bolster the potato’s defences using new techniques. Secondly, they are looking at how they can deactivate Phytophthora’s weapons, the so-called effectors. Read more

Importance of knowing the difference between seed genetics and traits

Since genetically modified, or GM, seed showed up on the market, farmers have been inundated with expensive advertising explaining how important trait packages could be to their operations, writes Ron Wulfkuhle in FBN Network. And it was easy to see the appeal: Who wouldn’t want seed that could fend off corn borers, stand up to RoundUp or survive a dose of Liberty? Most seasoned row crop farmers, and a fair number of younger ones, can remember the first time they poured a bag of traited seed into the planter. It was the dawn of a new era in production agriculture. Suddenly, we didn’t just need to select the right hybrid genetics—we also had to be able to choose between a number of trait packages. Farmers began asking themselves: Do I really need the glyphosate tolerance? Or would management be enough? And should I proactively bulk up against insect pressure, or should I wait until we actually see some activity in the field? Was the trait I chose last year now the right trait for this year? Do I even need the trait or traits? Are they worth the price? Read more

Researchers from Colombia and Canada developed nutritious, disease-resistant potato varieties

Man holding potatoes A marriage of scientific knowledge and traditional practice has led to the development of three highly nutritious, robust, and productive yellow potato varieties. Researchers from Colombia and Canada are working with public and private sector partners to increase production and consumption of this nutritious and all-natural food staple across Colombia and beyond. Malnutrition and iron deficiency are prevalent among many rural Colombians, especially young children. That will change with the introduction of three high quality yellow potato cultivars (Criolla Ocarina, Criolla Sua Pa and Criolla Dorada) selected by farmers, breeders and scientists.  Continue reading

PVY-resistant GMO potato variety approved by Argentine authorities

La licencia de uso del evento será de la firma Tecnoplant (subsidiaria del grupo Sidus).Argentine authorities have officially approved the commercialization of a genetically modified PVY-resistant potato variety. The transgenic potato, named TIC-AR233-5, will help growers avoid losses from the virus. The virus can result in yield declines of up to 70%, according to Argentina-based Tecnoplant, which holds the marketing license. The potato will also help growers to use fewer agrochemicals in its cultivation, the company said. The Health and Agri-Food Quality National Service, Senasa, said the product complies with all the necessary requirements, according to La Nación. According to Andrés Murchison, Secretary for Food and Bioeconomy, the new potato could help growers to reduce handling costs and could also boost the quality of the final product. It is expected that regulatory processes for other GMO crops will continue to be optimized in the future, said Murchinson. Read more. Report by Technoplant in Spanish.

Crispr: Why gene editing is the next food revolution

Related imageZachary Lippman advanced the selective breeding process of tomatoes with a little nip and tuck of the plant’s own DNA, and now the “edited” plant is about to bear fruit in the field. “There’s a long way to go, but what we have able to do in the last four or five years is unbelievable,” says Lippman, a professor of genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “It’s science fiction.” He created the plants using gene editing, a technology—based on a natural process—that allows researchers to cut out certain bits of DNA in order to control traits. The cell’s genetic structure then repairs itself automatically, minus the targeted gene. His tomatoes are now programmed to produce double the number of branches and, as a result, twice the tomatoes. Read full National Geograhic article

‘Protecting Potatoes’: New display in Edinburgh highlights the importance of wild potato varieties

‘Protecting Potatoes’ is a new plant display with interpretation for summer 2018 at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It can be found in the Demonstration Garden and the Temperate Palm House, and has been funded by SEFARI. The aim is to highlight the importance of wild potatoes for the future survival of the domesticated spud. Now, it may not be immediately obvious how wild potatoes can be used to protect what is the fourth most important crop on a global scale. The simple answer is that they have useful genes which can tackle all sorts of threats to the potato crop. This is why research at the Botanics, and in particular at the James Hutton Institute, has focused on the so-called ‘crop wild relatives’ of potato. Working with the James Hutton Institute and SASA, the Botanics assembled a display of eight wild potato species. The display includes numerous forms of the domesticated potato.  Amongst these are some unusual and curious looking traditional varieties from the Andes. Read more

Global Affairs Canada, Mccain support potato variety development in Andean countries

Related imageA marriage of scientific knowledge and traditional practice has led to the development of three highly nutritious, robust, and productive yellow potato varieties in the Andean region. Researchers from Colombia and Canada are working with public and private sector partners to increase production and consumption of this nutritious and all-natural food staple across Colombia and other Andean countries, particularly Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. This is a partnership between the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and McGill University in Canada, which developed the improved varieties, with support from private sector organizations, including Campo Vivo (McCain) and others. Malnutrition and iron deficiency are prevalent among many rural Colombians, especially young children. That is expected to change with the introduction of three high quality yellow potato cultivars selected by farmers, breeders and scientists. The initiative will benefit at least 1.5 million consumers.  Continue reading

Range of potato experiments underway at Maine’s Aroostook Research Farm

Farmers, researchers and members of the public gathered at the University of Maine’s Aroostook Research Farm in Presque Isle Wednesday to learn about the latest in potato research. “There’s a tremendous number of experiments going on,” said Greg Porter, a University of Maine agriculture professor who also leads the farm’s potato breeding program. Attendees at the field day learned about a range of trials underway at the farm, including research into different fertilizer applications, fungicide treatments for late blight, beneficial soil fungi, and the relatively new potato pathogen known as dickeya, which has created problems for Aroostook County’s seed potato industryContinue reading

James Hutton Institute: New findings could lead to climate-resilient potato varieties in future

Image result for james hutton potatoes in practiceResearch at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties resilient to heat stress. The findings were discussed by Dr Mark Taylor at the Potatoes in Practice 2018 event this week. Stress-resistant crops can be an important resource to preserve food security in the face of increased temperatures, such as those brought about by the recent UK heatwave. Dr Taylor said: ““Heat tolerant varieties are especially important for Scottish seed exports to growing markets in warm countries. Although most potato varieties are sensitive to heat there is significant variation in response to heat stress between different potato cultivars, and recent research at the Hutton has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature.” Recent leaps in the understanding of genomics, genetics and crop science, funded by the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Fund, have made this type of genetic screening possible. Read more

Future of Britain’s Maris Piper potato in spotlight amid changing global markets

Piper has long led the way in term of British consumptionThe farming industry has been urged to consider the future of Britain’s most loved variety of potato – the Maris Piper. Maris Piper has been the most grown potato variety in Britain for over 20 years. But the industry is now pondering if it will stay at the top in a changing global market. Claire Hodge, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB Potatoes said: “We wanted to ask those who will be shaping the industry in Britain about how they saw the potato competing in a changing global market.” Ms Hodge added: “But can Maris Piper hold out against new varieties? Can it withstand changing consumer appetites and evolution in production and processing methods?” Dr Kim Davie, ADHB Potatoes Nematology Fellow at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) believes that breeding resilient potatoes that are easier to grow is a key element. Read more

Protecting potatoes: Unearthing Scotland’s story

Image result for potatoes wildMax Coleman, Science Communicator, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), recently told Sefari more about our much loved tatties. Coleman says Scotland is a global leader in the research and cultivation of one of our favourite foods, the potato. The Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC), based at the James Hutton Institute) in Invergowrie, contains around 1500 samples of wild potato species that collectively form a valuable genetic resource that helps to safeguard the future development of the potato. The CPC is the second largest collection of potato genetic resources in the world, after the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru. Scotland was at the forefront of the fight against blight. Continue reading

Breeding breakthrough: Simplot to use ARS developed technology to speed up breeding of disease resistant potato varieties

Related imageAgricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Albany, California, have found a way to streamline the process that scientists use to insert multiple genes into a crop plant, developing a reliable method that will make it easier to breed a variety of crops with vastly improved traits. The technology is expected to speed up the process for developing new varieties that are better equipped to tolerate heat and drought, produce higher yields and resist a myriad of diseases and pests. “Making genetic improvements that were difficult or impossible before will be much easier because we can now insert not just one or two genes, but multiple genes, into a plant in a way that will lead to predictable outcomes,” said Roger Thilmony, an ARS molecular biologist in Albany.  Continue reading

CRISPR news: J.R. Simplot first ag company to receive gene editing licensing rights; potential for new potato varieties

J.R. Simplot Company, based in Idaho in the US, announced that it has acquired gene editing licensing rights that could one day be used to help farmers produce more crops and make grocery store offerings such as strawberries, potatoes and avocados stay fresher longer. J.R. Simplot Company on Monday announced the agreement with DowDuPont Inc. and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, developers of the nascent gene editing technology. Simplot is the first agricultural company to receive such a license. “We think this is a transformative technology — it’s very powerful,” said Issi Rozen, chief business officer of the Broad Institute. “We’re delighted that Simplot is the first one to take advantage of the licensing.”  Continue reading

New decision on GMOs and CRISPR: EU court tries, but fails, to clarify rules

Related imageSteven Salzberg European Union court just issued a new decision about GMOs. Disappointingly, this decision is likely to further confuse rather than clarify this complex and contentious issue. The court announced that plants whose genomes have been modified with CRISPR technology, a very precise form of genome editing, are subject to the EU’s very strict restrictions on genetically modified crops. More specifically, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) decided that: “Organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO Directive.” Salzberg points out that if we take this literally, then here’s a list of all the foods that have never been subjected to mutagenesis, and are therefore not GMO: Salt, wild boar, wild blueberries. So they carved out an exception: “…varieties [of plants] obtained by means of mutagenesis techniques which have conventionally been used in a number of applications and have a long safety record are exempt….” Which means, Salzberg says, that virtually all of the GMO crops in the U.S. are exempt. Read full Forbes report. Also read a report by Spudman magazine on this issue. 

Texas A&M potato breeding trials offer reds to russets, babies to bakers

Image result for Texas A&M potato breeding trials offer reds to russets, babies to bakersWhen Kelly Kuball walked the Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program variety display trials near Springlake recently, he was a long way from his specialty potato company in Arvin, California. Kuball said the Texas A&M potato breeding materials have the potential to provide new products for his Tasteful Selections clientele. He is looking for potatoes with unique characteristics, such as shape, color, size – “anything that might improve what we already grow and put in our bag for our customers.” Tasteful Selections concentrates mainly on baby potatoes, a rapidly growing market, he said. He has been growing and evaluating Texas A&M potatoes for seven years in California and at other Tasteful Selections growing regions on the West Coast. Dr. Isabel Vales, Texas A&M AgriLife Research potato breeder in College Station, said the breeding program’s main goal is to develop new potato varieties. She now leads the breeding program, long run by Dr. Creighton Miller. Read more