All latest News, Europe, UK, Ireland, News January 2021, Pests and Diseases

Late blight is still the biggest threat to Ireland’s potato crop

The same microbe that caused the Great Famine of 1845 continues to pose a biotic risk today. More than 175 years ago it was the root cause of Irelands Great Famine, a period of mass starvation and a cultural watershed during which more than a million people died and a further million left the country in a crisis which changed the face of the country forever, writes ilin Quinlan in an article for the Irish Examiner.

It is probably a more aggressive, more virulent and more difficult pathogen to control than it was back then, explains Dr Steven Kildea, senior research officer with Teagasc Crops, Environment and Land Use Programme, and author of a new report on the microbe, recognising the 175th anniversary of its arrival in Ireland.

In fact, while fungal, bacterial, and viral pathogens continue to shape global societies, he says, there are few plant-specific pathogens that can be regarded as having impacted the world throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in the wayPhytophthora infestanshas. The battle to control the microbe, also known as late blight, is virtually an ongoing arms race both between the pathogen and the plant, and between the pathogen, the farmer and modern science.

What happens he explains, is that when scientists and farmers put a particular layer of control in place, a strain of this pathogen eventually adapts and jumps the hurdle.

Another element of this ongoing battle, Dr Kildea says, lies in developing resistant varieties of potato so that the plant itself could prevent the pathogen from taking hold.This has to be done in a way that was acceptable to the consumer, he explained, which was where modern breeding programmes came in.

So what is it about this pathogen that makes it such a threat to Irish potato crops?

Source: Irish Examiner. Full article here

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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