Crop Biotech Update

CRISPR Curbs “Great Famine” Potato Disease

June 14, 2023

A scientist from Wageningen University and Research (WUR) used gene editing technology to develop potato plants resistant to the potato late blight disease. The disease, which caused the “Great Famine” event wherein the failure of potato crops in the mid-19th century led to a million deaths in Ireland due to starvation, still costs farmers 3-10 billion Euros in yield loss and management expenses annually.

Daniel Moñino-Lopez developed new potato varieties resistant to Phytophthora infestans, the microorganism that causes late blight disease, using CRISPR. He studied the introgression of resistance genes from wild potato relatives, particularly those that are part of the NB-LRR protein family. NB-LRR receptors recognize pathogen effectors and trigger the plant immune response. By editing them, Moñino-Lopez was able to produce late blight-resistant potato varieties.

This finding can help reduce the large impact of late-blight disease in potato fields. It can potentially decrease pesticide use allowing farmers to reap higher yields and income and minimizing environmental effects.

Read more from the WUR news release.

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