New disease-resistant potato plants can now be developed after a team of researchers has successfully cracked the full genetic code of the crop—making it the first leading crop plant to be sequenced.
It means that the irish potato blight could never happen again if this type of potato is adopted worldwide.
The scientific breakthrough promises to help increase the produce of one of the world’s major food crop. Contributing researchers from the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, UK, said improved varieties of potatoes would soon be able to be developed at a quick rate because of the recent discovery.
Scientist were able to match up the 12 chromosomes that combined create the potato genome. With that information breeders are able to create different varieties of the crop that are resistant to pesticides as well as making the potato more nutritious. It can lead to the classification of the genes that offer the resistance to potato diseases such as the late blight fungal infection that cause the 1845 Irish potato famine.
According to BBC News, an organism’s genome is a map of how its genes are put together. Each one of those genes controls different features that affect how the organism grows and develops and minor changes in these can create different varieties of the organism.
"Anything that allows us to link genes with traits now will improve the rate at which we can produce a whole range of varieties by different methods," said Professor Iain Gordon, of the James Hutton Institute.
"We now understand, in effect, the book of life of the potato, we understand the genes and we can relate that to the traits that the potato has, to improve its productivity and to reduce the impact of pests and pathogens."
Potatoes are not only a major dietary element for the Irish, but for the entire world as well. The spud is the world’s fourth-largest crop after rice, wheat and maize, and each year around 200 million tons of potatoes are consumed worldwide.
The advance has made the potato a critical crop for the future as the effort to increase food production for the world’s growing population continues. Unlike the other staple crops, potatoes are loaded with vitamin C, folic acid and other nutrients, making it of high importance at this time.
A brief history of the potato crop:
- It is believed that potatoes were first grown in the slopes of the Andes Mountains of Southern Peru in South America between 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.
- The potato was first taken back to Europe to impress royalty in 1536 by Spanish conquistadores after they came across the Incan people, and in 1538 Sir Francis Drake brought it to Britain.
- By the 19th century it had become a staple crop and is credited with being the crop that fed the workers of the Industrial Revolution.
- The late blight fungus devastated the potato crop of Ireland in 1845, which caused the Irish potato famine.
- The potato was the first crop plant to be grown in space in 1995.
- The word potato comes from the Spanish “patata” which is a combination of the words “batata” and “papa”—which is now the term for potato in Spanish.