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From the Andes to China: British scientist ‘grows’ potatoes at the foot of the Great Wall

At the foot of the Badaling Great Wall, located 100 kilometers from Beijing, within the greenhouse of the China Center for Asia and the Pacific (CCCAP) of the International Potato Center (CIP), Philip Kear closely monitors the growth of disease-resistant potatoes.

As the Xinhua news agency reports in this news story: Over the past seven years, the British doctor in plant breeding and genetics has been rooted in the suburbs of Beijing. He has been actively involved in the collaboration between the CCCAP and various Chinese agricultural research institutions, contributing to the selection of potatoes with features such as early maturation, high yield, heat resistance, and disease resistance. The goal is to enhance the productivity of these tubers, similar to sweet potatoes, to benefit both China and the world.

The potato, originally from the Andes in Latin America, has been preserved by the International Potato Center (CIP), based in Lima, Peru where the world’s largest and most comprehensive potato germplasm resources are preserved. Since 1978, China has introduced over 6,000 sub-germplasm resources from CIP, developing varieties like “Center 24”, “Jizhangshu 8”, and “Qingshu 9”. Among these, “Cooperation 88” is not only widely planted in Southwest China but is also promoted in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos due to its strong resistance to potato late blight.

This year, Kear will lead Zhao’s team to identify genes resistant to various diseases from over 1,000 germplasm resources. Once identified, these genes can be introduced into different varieties through breeding to develop new ones with multiple simultaneous features, such as disease resistance and high yield.

In recent years, cooperation between Peru and China in trade, investment, and culture has deepened. Around 2018, Kear began serving as CIP’s liaison scientist in China after earning a PhD in the United States. He has been responsible for communication regarding the needs of Chinese and foreign specialists and for leading some research projects.

In recent years, the center initiated AsiaBlight, a collaborative Asian regional network for controlling late blight, bringing together scientists, government officials, businesses, and farmers from various countries to exchange technological information.

Kear hopes that both Chinese and foreign scientists will strengthen their collaboration, cultivate better varieties, and bring benefits to people worldwide.

Source: Xinhua. The original article in Spanish can be viewed here. It is referenced by CIP here. Translation of the news story in English by Potato News Today
Photo: Philip Kear (right) introduces guests to growing disease-resistant potatoes inside the greenhouse of the China Asia-Pacific Center of the International Potato Center in Beijing, capital of China, May 30, 2023 ( Credit Xinhua/Li Xin)

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