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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Trace Potato's Origins, Its Untapped Potential

December 20, 2017

To learn how the potato was domesticated, and how its DNA evolved over time, a team of researchers from the United States conducted a plant genome project to understand the crop's domestication and identified potential genes to improve on in the future.

The team examined wild and cultivated potato species, including those found in South American markets, domestic North American varieties, and landraces, which are cultivated potatoes analogous to heirloom breeds.

A change that accompanied the domestication process is reduced pollen fertility. While some wild species must be fertile to disperse seeds, cultivated species grow from tubers. The team aligned genomes of each potato they studied to the "doubled monoploid" (DM) potato. The tuber's relative genetic simplicity compared to commercial potatoes made it easier to sequence using available next generation sequencing technology. Understanding the tuber's genetic blueprint could help growers transition to a successful breeding scheme that will produce desirable varieties.

For more information, read the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.