Genes that give resistance to yield-destroying diseases and pests are available -
and can be added to favourite varieties that otherwise stay unchanged.
Robust resistance to diseases and pests
Serious diseases and pests are the largest problem faced by potato growers everywhere.
Farmers in the EU and elsewhere each year spend upwards of €500/ha on pesticides,
often with worrying environmental impact.
Most serious is late blight caused by the many races of Phytophora infestans. In
recent years scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory at Norwich and elsewhere have
identified genes giving resistance to particular races. GM potatoes with one or
more of these genes have proved resistant in field trials. Genes providing resistance
to several other diseases - including those caused have also been identified.
Because the late blight pathogen can evolve rapidly, durable resistance is likely
to require stacking two or more of the resistance genes; BioP is collaborating with
a project that aims to do this.
Similarly, researchers at Leeds University have successfully field tested GM potatoes
with resistance to nematodes. Genes giving effective resistance to other major potato
pests such as Colorado beetle and potato tuber moth are also available and proven
in field trails.
Our long term intention of adding these genes to the varieties farmers want to grow
has been a challenge. (more ... >