Study Looks at Late Blight Changes in Europe, Asia

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Late blight on potato leafs
Potato plants infected with late blight. Photo: Khalil Al-Mughrabi

Scientists have been looking into the spread of potato late blight across Europe and Asia, a news release from the James Hutton Institute says on April 28.

The scientists tracked the distribution and diversity of dominant clones in Europe in 2020, and also assisted to a review of the development of the disease in Asia over the last 150 years, the release notes. Late blight was a major role of the Irish potato famine, and is still a huge problem for growers today — causing massive crop losses and has proven difficult to manage by chemical control and traditional breeding methods.

“The blight pressure in 2020 was lower than average with a prolonged spell of warm, dry weather early in the season which checked the development of the disease in many regions. The proportions of the main clones in the 2020 population structure were broadly similar to those reported in 2019,” David Cooke, James Hutton Institute researcher and co-leader of the EuroBlight study, says in the release.

The EuroBlight consortium, which includes Aarhus University, Wageningen University and INRAE, tracked the European spatial distribution of Phytophthora infestans since 2013, and added new data to show the distribution and diversity of dominant clones from the 2020 crop. The report, available on the research group website, combines information from 1,221 samples collected in 28 countries and genotyped in 2020.

The data shows the survival and spread of newer clones, while others are decreasing or have failed to establish, the release notes. This suggests they are evolutionarily fit and supports anecdotal evidence they are more challenging to manage in the field.

AsiaBlight has been launched recently. It is modelled after Euroblight, and brings together researchers from across the continent, to promote co-operation and data sharing with the goal of improving sustainable production of healthy potato crops.

The review, titled Potato late blight in Asia: Phytophthora infestans over a century and a half – a Plant Pathology highlight, was published in Plant Pathology.

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