Disease resistant potatoes a step closer
2 September 2011
Scientists have succeeded in unravelling the entire genetic code of the potato, the first major UK crop to be fully sequenced, leading to hopes for increasing crop yields and disease resistance.
It currently takes up to 12 years to develop an improved variety of potato, but the international team of researchers, led in the UK by the James Hutton Institute in Dundee and Imperial College London, believe the process should now be made much easier and cheaper. Sequencing enables scientists to work out which genes control such traits as starchiness, colour, flavour and susceptibility to notoriously devastating diseases such as blackleg and late blight.
'This genome sequence is a major step forward in understanding potato biology,' said Dr Glenn Bryan of The James Hutton Institute, who led the UK team. 'It will lead to accelerated breeding of new potato varieties through use of the genome data to identify genes and genetic markers for important traits.'
Work is now beginning on analysing the information to find out which gene carries out which function. It's expected the research will have implications for other closely-related crops too, such as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.