A University of Florida scientist has pinpointed Mexico as the origin of the pathogen that caused the 1840s Irish Potato Famine, a finding that may help researchers solve the $6 billion-a-year disease that continues to evolve and torment potato and tomato growers around the world.
A disease called “late blight” killed most of Ireland’s potatoes, while today it costs Florida tomato farmers millions each year in lost yield, unmarketable crop and control expenses.
For more than a century, scientists thought the pathogen that caused late blight originated in Mexico. But a 2007 study contradicted earlier findings, concluding it came from the South American Andes.
UF plant pathology assistant professor Erica Goss wanted to clear up the confusion and after analyzing sequenced genes from four strains of the pathogen, found ancestral relationships among them that point to Mexico as the origin.
“The pathogen is very good at overcoming our management strategies,” said Goss, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member. “To come up with better solutions to late blight, we need to understand the genetic changes that allow it to become more aggressive. By understanding past changes, we can design new strategies that are more likely to be robust to future genetic changes.”
Goss and eight colleagues analyzed the genes of potato late-blight pathogens from around the world. Potato late blight, which flourishes in cool, damp weather, is caused by the pathogen phytophthora infestans.
Scientists sequenced four genes from more than 100 phytophthora infestans samples, plus four closely related species, to tease out the pathogen’s origin. Knowing the origin provides insight into its genetic diversity and the ways it adapts to different environments, Goss said
The pathogen also moved from other related species to the potato late in the evolutionary history of potatoes, she said, perhaps one reason potatoes are so susceptible to the disease and why finding a breeding-based solution to the disease has been so difficult.
The pathogen costs $6 billion a year globally between direct crop damage and spraying, she said. In Florida, it damages tomatoes far more than potatoes.
Florida farmers lose millions each year due to late blight, said Gene McAvoy, Hendry County Extension director, who has monitored late blight in Southwest Florida for years.
A late-blight pandemic in 2009 made the pathogen a household term in much of the eastern U.S. It made its way to the Northeast via tomatoes in big-box retailers. After planting the tomatoes, many home gardeners and organic producers lost most, if not all, of their crop, Goss said.
“Just when we think we’re on top of it, a new strain shows up,” she said. “New strains have repeatedly appeared in the U.S. that are more aggressive or resistant to fungicides. This pathogen just keeps coming.”
Goss wrote the paper, published online Monday by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with scientists from eight other university and government agencies.
Brad Buck | newswise
Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge
Unusual soybean coloration sheds a light on gene silencing
20.06.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology