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Chinese scientists make breakthrough in potato breeding

A research team led by Professor Huang Sanwen with the Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen, under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), has devised a genome design plan for hybrid potatoes and published their findings in the journal Cell on June 24, according to news reports by CGTN and Xinhua.

Huang’s team, in collaboration with Yunnan Normal University and several organizations, initiated the “Upotato Plan“, which utilized the theory and methods of genome design to carry out hybrid potato breeding, ‘re-inventing’ the potato from a clonally propagated tetraploid crop into an inbred line-based diploid crop, propagated by seeds.

Their international peers have recognized the team’s work. “This work is very important because it’s relevant to feeding the planet,” said Sofin Kamon, a member of the European Academy of Sciences. “What Professor Huang and his team did is they essentially reinvented the potato. They reinvented the crop almost from scratch. The hybrid potato and hybrid potato technology are really amazing in terms of taking the potato crop to the modern age of plant breeding.”

“The yield of the first-generation hybrid potatoes was close to 45 tonnes per hectare, which equals to the yield of the best potato varieties in the region,” Zhang told CMG. “We now only need 2 grams of potato seeds for a one-mu land, compared to 200 kilograms of seed potatoes before, which greatly reduces the planting costs.”

For the next step, the researchers will strengthen the technology research and development, to prepare for the industrialization of potato seeds, Zhang added.

“The ‘Upotato Plan’ has solved the problem of transferring seed potatoes among different regions. If we can make use of the idle winter fields in southern China, it may effectively help solve the problem of food security in China,” said Xiong Xingyao, vice president of Potato Professional Committee under the Crop Science Society of China.

Sources: Full story on CGTN and Xinhua
Related: ‘Genome design of hybrid potato’. Journal Cell

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