Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Potato gene 'map' could boost crops

The genetic blueprint for potato plants has been mapped for the first time.

Scientists uncovered the secrets of the potato genome - the first time a major crop plant in the UK has been fully sequenced.

They will now analyse them over the next few years.

Every organism has a genome, a chemical 'instruction book' or 'blueprint' that describes how all the genes should be put together.

Each gene controls different aspects of how the organism grows and develops. Slight changes in these instructions give rise to different varieties - each individual has a slightly different version of the DNA sequence for the species.

The researchers said the discovery could "revolutionise" potato breeding and ensure food security in the future.

An international team of scientists - led in the UK by researchers at The James Hutton Institute in Dundee, undertook the work. They said the breakthrough "holds great promise" for speeding up the process of developing new potato varieties.

At the moment it can take 10-12 years to breed a new variety.

New types of potato could help to ensure future food security because of improved yield, quality, nutritional value, and resistance to pests and diseases.

Professor Iain Gordon, the chief executive of The James Hutton Institute said: "This achievement is an exciting day for us and the result of many years of hard work by our team in Dundee. With global population forecast to reach nine billion by 2050, there will be many more mouths to feed and the genome sequence will allow scientists and breeders to increase the efficiency of potato production to help meet this challenge."

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