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Crop Biotech Update

NY Student Wins Award on Solution for Potato Late Blight

March 21, 2018

A student from Hunter College High School in New York mapped disease data and weather patterns to predict where spores that cause potato late blight would spread to next. His research won the first prize in the Regeneron Science Talent Search founded and produced by Society for Science & the Public in 1942.

Benjy Firester, aged 18, bagged US$250,000 as his prize money. Firester used data from Israeli farmers and weather reports of the region, taking account of humidity levels and wind direction. The results of his study is highly relevant because potato late blight can destroy fields in days, and was the culprit of the Irish Potato Famine in 1840s when 2 million people died due to hunger and disease.

According to Firester, farmers are forced to apply high amounts of fungicide to address the potato late blight problem. With his mathematical model matched with a decision support system where farmers can exchange infection data, farmers can now make informed decisions to protect their crops.

Read more from Society for Science and the Public and CNN.