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How a transgenic potato variety resists late blight infection in Sub-Saharan Africa

A recently published article by experts Marc Ghislain, Rick Goodman and Alex Barekye describes the development of an African potato variety – transformed with three resistance genes from wild potato relatives – that provides resistance to late blight disease. The article was published by OpenAccessGovernment.

The authors point out that potato is an important crop in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where it provides both food and income from 1.7 million hectares cultivated by about 7 million farmers. The cost of the disease due to production loss and fungicide cost is estimated to be $800 million per year in sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists at the International Potato Center (CIP) and at the Ugandan National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) tested the transgenic Victoria variety, a popular variety in Uganda, in the field for 3 seasons in three locations in Uganda. As shown in the article, the transgenic variety is able to resist natural infection by this pesky mold in field conditions, without the use of fungicides. The expectation is that the three resistance genes will provide long term resistance.

The transgenic potatoes have been evaluated for human safety using methods to consider potential allergenicity and toxicity as well as nutritional equivalence to the non-transgenic varieties grown in Uganda now. In their field observations, scientists found no differences between transgenic and non-transgenic potato plots regarding environmental impact.

Clearly, the reduced need for fungicides improve the safety for farmers and their families because of low use of protective equipment. Late blight disease impacts particularly the small-scale farm holders who have limited access to fungicides and can easily lose up to 60% of their production. Once approved by the governmental authorities, the transgenic variety will be sold to farmers with no royalty-fees and is expected to raise their income by 40%.

The authors of the article provide ethical considerations supporting the adoption of this innovation by potato farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Devastation by late blight disease – Confined field trial at Kachwekano research station in 2019 in Uganda under natural infestation by late blight with plots planted with either 3R Victoria or Victoria.

Source: OpenAccessGovernment. Read the full article here
Cover photo: Yield gain of 3R Victoria – Potato harvest from the transgenic potato 3R Victoria (left) and the conventional potato Victoria (right) grown without fungicide at Kachwekano research station in 2019 in Uganda.
Authors:
Marc Ghislain. International Potato Centre, P.O. Box 25171, Nairobi 00603, Kenya. [email protected]
Rick Goodman. Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE U.S. [email protected]
Alex Barekye. Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute, P. O. Box 421, Kabale, Uganda [email protected]
Related information: 2Blades Foundation: Collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa

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