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World Review

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EUROPE

potato-damage
Concerns are rising over damage caused by potato tuber moths in Europe.

Potato tuber moth populations appear to be on the increase across southern Europe, particularly around Mediterranean basin, and are likely to lead to significant in-store losses and threaten the trade of infected tubers. The warning comes from DuPont following its monitoring of pest populations over the past three years.

“Our pest traps have highlighted that the moth is rapidly becoming a significant pest of potatoes in the warmer growing regions such as Turkey, Greece, Italy and Egypt,” says the company’s Giuseppe Ceparano. “However, we have also seen the pest moving steadily northwards with reports that it has now reached as far as the south of France.”

tuber-moth
Photos courtesy of DuPont.

While the damage caused to foliage doesn’t normally reduce yields, infestation of tubers can lower or totally erase their value. Infested potatoes are unmarketable for either the fresh market or processing purposes, and if left untreated, damage to stored potatoes can be severe or total.

“We’re not sure why we are seeing the increased populations or why the pest is moving northwards so quickly,” adds Ceparano. “The trading of infected potatoes is very likely to play a part in the movement, and we know that processors are becoming more concerned about the pest. As a result, we are recommending that growers in likely problem areas monitor their crops closely in the run-up to harvest and treat if adult moths are seen.”

Source: DuPont

UNITED KINGDOM

The James Hutton Institute in the United Kingdom is undertaking a £382,000 project to study genetic mutation in potatoes. The three-year project will develop the first ‘library’ of potato mutants, which can be used as a resource for further genetics research and the development of agriculturally valuable strains.

“Potato, despite its global importance as a crop, has never been subjected to the same types of mutational analysis as … other crop plants. By making a library of mutants and using the genome sequence, we can make great progress in understanding potato traits,” says project lead Glenn Bryan.

For any plant or animal, some mutation of the genetic code occurs naturally, and in plant crops any resulting changes in the function of one or more genes can result in beneficial traits. Developing mutants with desirable traits can therefore be a useful tool for crop scientists looking to breed those characteristics into a plant population.

Source: James Hutton Institute

IRELAND

An international team of scientists has identified the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century. The scientists say that a strain of Phytophthora infestans called HERB-1 triggered the disaster — not the US-1 strain that was long thought to have been the culprit.

The team of molecular biologists from the United States and Europe reconstructed the pathogen’s spread from dried plants. They studied the spread of P. infestans, comparing samples with modern strains, and estimated that the HERB-1 strain likely emerged during the early 1800s. In contrast, the US-1 strain emerged during the 20th century after new potato varieties were introduced.

It the first time scientists have decoded the genome of a plant pathogen and its plant host from dried herbarium samples. This opens up a new area of research to understand how pathogens evolve and how human activity impacts the spread of plant disease.

P. infestans changed the course of history. Even today, the Irish population has still not recovered to pre-famine levels. “We have finally discovered the identity of the exact strain that caused all this havoc,” says Hernán Burbano of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

ISREAL

For more than 20 years, Israeli Professor David Levy has been researching the development of crop varieties able to adapt to the extreme conditions of the Middle East. Levy, along with the Institute of Plant Sciences, part of the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has produced a variety of potato that is being considered as a super potato.

This new variety is able to adapt to extreme conditions and is said to be ideal for arid climates characteristic of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. It is also capable of being irrigated with seawater.

According to a press release, the development is described as something that could radically change the socio-economic map of the entire region and other areas with similar climatic conditions, permitting the cultivation of potatoes in those areas with less than favourable growing conditions.

Source: Argenpapa.com

CENTRAL ASIA

Researchers from the International Potato Center (CIP) and their partners in Uzbekistan have selected potato clones from new breeding lines that tolerate drought, high temperatures and the long days of temperate summer, which is a promising development for farmers and consumers in Central Asia.

The researchers have run field trials with 64 advanced clones bred by CIP to compare their development under normal, water deficit and severe drought conditions. The team selected genotypes with drought tolerance and other desirable traits such as virus resistance, high yield, marketability and storability, while working with local farmers to identify which varieties they prefer. Many of the CIP-bred clones didn’t produce well in the Central Asian summer, but some virus-resistant genotypes showed adaptation to temperate and drought conditions.

Source: International Potato Center

UNITED STATES

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has launched a State National Harmonization Program for seed potatoes. The program is a collaborative effort between APHIS, National Potato Council, United States Potato Board, National Plant Board and state seed certification agencies.

“The harmonization program launched by APHIS and its partners is an important tool that will benefit U.S. agricultural trade and the economy,” says Rebecca Bech, deputy administrator of APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine. “By working together to harmonize seed certification programs, this country’s potato industry is better positioned to take advantage of trade opportunities.”

Each participating state agrees to follow baseline standards regarding both quarantine and non-quarantine potato pests, creating a framework in which interstate and international commerce can be facilitated. Currently, 12 states participate in the program, covering 98.5 per cent of all U.S. seed potato acreage: Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming are the participating states, while New York, California and Alaska are in the process of completing the requirements for entry into the program.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

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