Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Potato genome sequence is published

Publication of the humble potato's genetic codebook is expected to help avert hunger in the world

Publication of the humble potato's genetic codebook is expected to help avert hunger in the world.

The potato is one of the world's top staple foods and the third most important edible crop after wheat and rice.

Understanding the secrets of the potato genome will speed up the development of new strains with improved yields, greater nutritional value and better resistance to pests and diseases.

Experts hope enhancing the efficiency of potato production will go some way towards feeding a global population that is set to reach nine billion by 2050.

In 2007 more than 300 million tonnes of potatoes were harvested around the world.

By 2020 it is predicted that more than two billion people worldwide will depend on the potato for food, animal feed or income.

However, the potato remains vulnerable to diseases such as late blight which cause economic crop losses estimated at £3 billion a year.

British scientists played a key role in the Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium, whose results appear in the online edition of the journal Nature.

Dr Glenn Bryan, from the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, who led the UK team, said: "This genome sequence is a major step forward in understanding potato biology.

"It will lead to accelerated breeding of new potato varieties through use of the genome data to identify genes and genetic markers for important traits."

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