News Industry World Review Winter 2020

World Review Winter 2020

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UNITED KINGDOM

A genetically modified potato with improved tuber quality and resistance to the devastating disease late blight has progressed successfully through the latest stage of trials.

The field trials follow successful lab experiments to modify Maris Piper potatoes with late blight resistance genes from wild relatives of potato called Solanum americanum and Solanum venturii.

To improve tuber quality, the modified Maris Piper lines also have genes switched off — or silenced — to reduce browning upon bruise damage and to avoid cold-induced sweetening (which is the accumulation of reducing sugars during cold storage, which causes blackening when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures).

The Sainsbury Laboratory was granted permission earlier this year by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to proceed with three years of field trials in controlled conditions. These trials in Norfolk last summer were set up to test if the genetic improvements were without side-effects for yield or lower performance in the field. 

“We have identified a plant that looks fine in terms of yield — comparable to wild-type Maris Piper — but with all the benefits of blight resistance, reduced bruising and lower levels of reducing sugars,” says Jonathan Jones of The Sainsbury Laboratory. “The really exciting thing about this trial is that our new line also shows resistance to tuber blight — the same pathogen that causes late blight can get into tubers and rot them. This will reduce losses in storage for potato growers.”

The next phase of trials funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), a part of U.K. Research and Innovation, will see 12 more lines go forward to more extensive yield trials before the final GM Maris Piper can be taken forward for regulatory assessment and commercialization.

Source: The Sainsbury Laboratory

AFRICA

Solynta, the global leader in the development of hybrid potato and the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) announced an expansion in their collaboration. Nutritious potatoes are both a staple and a cash crop in Rwanda and like many African countries Rwanda faces many challenges importing and storing seed tubers. Through collaboration the parties hope to bring the combination of true potato seeds and hybrids to local farmers. 

True potato seed allows for the replacement of bulky seed tubers with clean, easy to transport and store seed. Instead of using 2,500 kilograms of perishable potato tubers, farmers will be able to use only 25 grams of true potato seed to plant the same area. The application of hybrid potato will allow for a much faster breeding process, allowing for the introduction of beneficial traits including disease resistance, which will result in reduced usage of herbicides and pesticides. The parties’ collaboration is based on a Memorandum of Understanding designed to promote their mutual interest in providing Rwandan farmers access to hybrid potato seeds.

“Solynta is excited to collaborate with RAB to identify the Solynta potato hybrids that will best improve farmer productivity in Rwanda,” said Hein Kruyt, Solynta’s CEO.