Steps towards a blight-resistant potato

Late blight (Phytophthora infestans), the cause of the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, continues to reduce potato yields today and can cause devastating losses.

Professor Jonathan Jones of The Sainsbury Laboratory.
Professor Jonathan Jones of The Sainsbury Laboratory.

The challenge is to find new resistance genes that provide protection against the widest range of pathogens and their variants, buying time in an ongoing evolutionary arms race.

Myself and my co-workers explored the diversity of resistance genes in a wide range of wild Solanum plants related to potato and found Solanum americanum, the ancestor of the widespread UK wild plant Solanum nigrum (black nightshade) to be an excellent source of new resistance genes against late blight.

I'm delighted to see this important work out in print. It took a long time and there were many false leads and confusing data to make sense of, but this Rpi-amr1 gene now looks like one of the best resistance genes in our armoury against late blight.

By combining Rpi-amr1 with two other resistance genes, I think it can make a durably blight-resistant potato. I'd like to acknowledge the fantastic and dedicated work of the four lead authors whose persistence was essential.

Professor Jonathan Jones, The Sainsbury Laboratory

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