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Researchers Engineer Heat Tolerance in Potato Crops

Scientists at the James Hutton Institute and the University of St. Andrews have developed a technique to ‘engineer’ heat tolerance in potato crops, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties suited to the requirements of growers, industry and retailers.

The potato crop is particularly vulnerable to increased temperature, which is considered to be the most important uncontrollable factor affecting growth and yield, according to the researchers.

By comparing many different types of potato, scientists at the Institute have found a version of a gene involved in the heat stress response that is more active in potato types that can tolerant high temperature. The team went on to show that the switch that turns the protective gene on  is different in the heat tolerant types.

Dr. Mark Taylor

Dr Mark Taylor, project leader at the Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences group in Dundee and corresponding author of the study, said: “Our results identify a novel version of a gene that codes for a heat shock protein as a significant factor influencing yield stability under moderately elevated temperature. The challenge now is to introduce this version of the gene to potato breeding programs for the development of a more resilient crop. This research will assist breeders in developing heat tolerant varieties, particularly important for seed exports to warmer countries”.

Professor Derek Stewart, AgriFood Business Sector Lead at the James Hutton Institute, commented: “Once realized this research will offer huge humanitarian and economic opportunities, and should ultimately ensure supply in a changing environment for subsistence farmers through to the large commercial potato processing operations.”

The research was funded by the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme and BBSRC.

Source: Potato Business

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