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Wild potato holds key to disease resistance


June 16, 2010
By USDA-ARS

Topics

June
16, 2010 – Wild potato germplasm that offers resistance to some major potato
diseases has been identified by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

June
16, 2010 – Wild potato germplasm that offers resistance to some major potato
diseases has been identified by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

Geneticists
Dennis Halterman and Shelley Jansky pinpointed the resistant wild potato
species in studies at the ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, WI.

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Halterman
has identified a wild potato species called Solanum verrucosum that contains a
gene with resistance to late blight, considered the most destructive disease of
potato. The wild species can be crossed with cultivated potatoes, and efforts
are under way to move the late-blight resistance gene into the cultivated
potato gene pool.

But
the scientists aren’t stopping there. They are using S. verrucosum to create a
potato that’s resistant to both late blight and early blight, a fungal disease
that primarily affects the potato plant’s leaves and stems but, if left
uncontrolled, can lead to considerable reductions in yields.

To
create the multi-disease-resistant cultivar, the scientists crossed S.
verrucosum
with another wild potato species that is resistant to early blight,
and then crossed the wild potato hybrid with the cultivated potato. They
currently have seedlings in the greenhouse waiting to be tested in the field.

Halterman
and Jansky are also looking for resistance to Verticillium wilt, another fungal
disease that can linger in the soil for up to 10 years. Halterman developed a
molecular marker to screen potato germplasm for resistance against this
disease, saving the scientists time and effort. They found resistance in the
wild potato species S. chacoense and crossed it with the cultivated potato.
According to Halterman, this could be a good, durable gene that may hold up
over the long term.

The
scientists’ studies have been published in Physiological and Molecular Plant
Pathology
, Molecular Breeding and the American Journal of Potato Research.

More
about this research is available in the May/June 2010 issue of Agricultural
Research
magazine, http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/may10/potatoes0510.htm.