Technology has become the blight of the Irish potato famine pathogen. A
research team led by Professor Jonathan Jones at The Sainsbury Laboratory in
Norwich Research Park has successfully modified a potato to resist the
devastating disease 'late blight' by introducing a blight-resistant gene
from a wild potato to the popular Maris Piper.
Blight is a serious problem globally, and was a significant contributor to
the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s. "The first year of the Maris Piper
field trial has worked brilliantly", said Professor Jones. "We've observed
resistance to late blight in all the lines.
This new blight-resistant gene introduced to the Maris Piper offers the
promise of furthering its crop strength, and even the possibility of
avoiding the use of chemical fungicides in its cultivation altogether. Field
trials at Norwich are continuing, and next year the team will begin to
explore the genetic traits that can improve tuber quality. The team hopes to
produce a crop that is less prone to bruise damage and help improve the
quality and sustainability of potato crop in the UK.