[A new variety of] potato— named 3R potato— could help protect farming families… in Uganda and possibly elsewhere in Africa from losing their crops to blight—and without requiring expensive and potentially hazardous fungicides to be effective.
Because there are three genes from potato relatives, biotechnology was found to be the most efficient way to transfer them into existing varieties grown by farmers to achieve resistance to potato blight. Breeders could have used traditional techniques to breed or ‘cross’ the potato relative with a domestic potato to develop a new, disease-resistant variety as they did for one gene after 46 years of efforts. But it is nearly impossible to have three of these genes together in one variety using conventional breeding methods.
“The time needed to develop a blight-resistant potato by breeding is simply far too long if the goal is to protect farmers and consumers in Uganda….Their harvests are being ruined and the threat is spreading rapidly. And every year that passes without a solution to late blight is another year of stagnating incomes and increased risk of hunger and malnutrition”, noted Research Scientist Abel Arinaitwe.