Feeds

Scientists lay bare Irish potato famine blight

Phytophthora infestans genome sequenced

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of Phytophthora infestans - the potato blight mould which in the 1840s devasted Irish potato crops, leading to the deaths of one million people.

According to Nature, Phytophthora infestans is a water mould (oomycete) which "causes late blight in potatoes, consumes and rots the leaves and tubers of the plant". It adds: "The mould still afflicts potatoes, tomatoes and related plants, and costs farmers around the world an estimated $6.7bn a year."

Now, though, an international team has "identified a number of genes that might be responsible for the blight's destructive powers - and keys to its undoing".

The researchers discovered that parts of the "unusually large" genome "stood out as being highly variable", or full of "transposons", described as "sequences that make copies of themselves and jump around in the genome". The scientists believe the transposons - comprising a whopping 74 per cent of the genome - allow the mould to quickly evolve to defeat genetic countermeasures intended to stop it in its tracks.

Potato breeder John Bradshaw, of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) in Dundee, explained: "At the moment, the breeding strategy has been based on screening the wild relatives [of the potato] from the highlands of Mexico and parts of the Andes such as Bolivia that have resistance."

However, Bradshaw noted: "What has happened is after taking 15 years to incorporate this resistance in a cultivar, it would take Phytophthora infestans only a couple of years to defeat it."

Scientists now hope to pinpoint those Phytophthora infestans genes which are "absolutely required for late blight disease development", as Dr Stephen Whisson of the SCRI put it to the BBC.

He added: "The products from these essential 'disease' genes are then potentially useful to target for resistance in potato breeding programmes, or in development of more specific and environmentally friendly control chemicals."

Bradshaw concluded: "With all this knowledge about how the pathogen attacks the host on the biochemical level, I would hope that some clever plant pathologist would be able to genetically engineer resistance." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.