Scouring the genome of a wild Mexican potato, scientists have discovered a gene that protects potatoes against late blight, the devastating disease that caused the Irish potato famine.
Potato plants exposed to the pathogen that causes late blight, the disease responsible for the Irish potato famine, soon wither and die (left). The plant on the right has been engineered to resist the devastating disease through incorporation of a gene found in a wild Mexican potato, as part of research by John Helgeson, professor of plant pathology and Jiming Jiang, professor of horticulture and others.
Photo by: courtesy department of plant pathology
Date: July 2003
The discovery of the gene and its cloning by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was reported today (July 14) in online editions of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The identification of the gene, found in a species of wild potato known as ´Solanum bulbocastanum, holds significant potential. All of the varieties now cultivated commercially on more than 1.5 million acres in the United States are highly susceptible to potato late blight, a family of fungal pathogens that wreaks havoc in the field, turning tubers to mush and invariably killing any plant it infects.
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