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UK: Modern genetics applied to 19th century potatoes

| September 27, 2012

Researchers led by Professor Bruce Fitt, now at the University of Hertfordshire, have used modern DNA techniques on late nineteenth-century potatoes to show how the potato blight may have survived between cropping seasons after the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.

Late blight of potato is caused by the microorganism, Phytophthora infestans, which rapidly destroys the leaves of potato crops and was responsible for the infamous Irish potato famine of the 1840s that left over one million people dead and another one million Irish emigrating. With growing concerns over food shortages and climate change, late blight remains a serious disease problem in current potato production and has also emerged as a significant disease threat to the organic tomato industry.

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