A genetically-modified (GM) potato designed to resist a devastating plant disease has worked “brilliantly” during the first year of field trials, according to Norwich scientists.
Late blight is a global problem that can wipe out whole fields of potato crops unless multiple treatments of chemical fungicides are used to combat the infection and ensure a good harvest.
The field trial conducted by The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) on the Norwich Research Park involves incorporating three blight-resistant genes from a wild potato relative into the popular commercial variety Maris Piper.
After the first year of the field trial, scientists observed a marked improvement in late blight resistance, with a stark difference in health between the resistant and non-resistant plants.
Prof Jonathan Jones, who is leading the project, said the initial results offered hope that there could be a way of controlling late blight without the need for chemical fungicide sprays.
Alongside resistance to blight, next year’s field trials of modified Maris Piper potatoes will also carry traits to improve tuber quality. Two genes will be switched off in the plant, a process known as “silencing”.
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