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Scottish treasure trove of rare potato species could hold secrets to potato problems

A priceless living library of rare potato species is being trawled for traits which could offer resistance to pests, diseases, viruses and  the looming issue of climate change, writes Nancy Nicolson in this article for The Courier.

The Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC), the only potato gene bank in the UK and only one of a handful in Europe, is located at the James Hutton Institute (JHI) campus at Invergowrie, and is regarded by geneticists as  a vital resource for potato breeders.

It dates back to 1938 when seeds, berries, tubers and entire plants were brought back from South America and the southern United States  by Jack Hawkes, a collector who led a series of trips to the continents.   Scientists say today’s collection of 1523 accessions representing 93 different species constitutes a resource of wide genetic diversity.

Dr Glenn Bryan,  JHI’s senior potato geneticist, said: “We have wild species in here which are resistant to PCN, and breeders are trying to take genes from them and stack them up to create specific crosses and produce a potato that people would also be happy to see on their plates – because these wild species wouldn’t necessarily produce the taste or yields that would be acceptable today.”

CPC curator, Gaynor McKenzie prioritises  them according to their plant health status, low seed numbers or demand by researchers who are searching for specific seed.

Source: The Courier. Full article here
Photo: Glenn Bryan and Gaynor McKenzie | The Courier

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