Unlocking the potential of the humble spud: Scientists explore ways to climate-proof potatoes

Potatoes, the world’s fourth most important crop, are under threat from climate change, with rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, and extreme weather challenging production. This article by Lukie Pieterse reviews strategies for enhancing potato resilience, such as breeding climate-tolerant varieties and adopting biotechnology and sustainable practices. Collaborative efforts are vital to secure this staple food’s future, ensuring global food security amidst a changing climate.

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Seeding the future: CIP and SFSA’s partnership develops climate-resilient potatoes for a warmer world

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and International Potato Center collaborate to develop climate-resilient potato and sweetpotato varieties for tropical regions. Recent achievements include rapid breeding programs in Vietnam and innovative sweetpotato food products, signifying progress in food security and commercial benefits. Partnerships with local communities and global organizations, such as the World Food Program, enhance nutrition and empower growers. Looking ahead, strategies will adapt to urbanization challenges, ensuring sustainable agricultural practices meet future demands.

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‘Terra Carbono’: Pioneering a greener future in the potato industry

Terra Carbono, an innovative Hungarian ag-tech company, focuses on sustainable potato cultivation, aiming to reduce carbon footprints and improve agricultural productivity. They create biodegradable, carbon-negative products that boost yield, conserve water, and minimize chemical use while enhancing soil health. Terra Carbono is engaged in several partnerships for community betterment and sustainable practices.

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Breeding the super spud: How scientists are striving to create climate-resilient potatoes

The ADAPT project explores breeding resilient potatoes through genetics. Researchers have discovered how the SP6A protein triggers potato formation and how high temperatures disrupt this process. By manipulating genes related to SP6A, they’ve produced potatoes that grow earlier and in greater numbers, even in adverse conditions. Findings on the GERMIN3 gene also contribute to improved potato yield by managing sugar supply during growth. Such advances aim at securing food production despite climate challenges.

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GM potatoes to be released to Nigerian farmers in 2025

Beginning in the 2025 planting season, Nigerian farmers will have access to new late blight-resistant potato varieties, according to Dr. Charles Amadi of NRCRI. This development is part of the USAID-funded GBPP, led by Michigan State University, in collaboration with multiple partners. The varieties promise to address the blight that devastates over 90% of crops in Nigeria.

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MSU’s pioneering diploid potato project backs research into new way of breeding potatoes

About a decade ago, Michigan State University’s professor Dave Douches, launched the SolCAP initiative, funded by the USDA NIFA, focusing on potato and tomato crop improvements. He spearheaded a shift towards breeding diploid potatoes, which have two sets of chromosomes, enabling easier gene editing and rapid genetic progress. With Project GREEEN’s support, his efforts include developing self-compatible diploid potatoes and enhancing pest resistance, such as against the Colorado potato beetle.

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‘TuberGene’: Innovative new precision breeding project in the UK promises radical solutions

B-hive Innovations leads ‘TuberGene’, a UKRI-funded research to revolutionize the UK’s potato industry through precision breeding and gene editing. The project focuses on reducing food waste by curbing bruising and accelerating cooking times. The initiative reflects responses to consumer demand shifts and strives for sustainable agriculture, with advancements like the “Super Spud” and wider applications in fresh produce farming.

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The digital eye in potato breeding: How machine vision is shaping the future of spuds

A team of U.S. scientists published an innovative cost-effective phenotyping strategy to improve potato breeding in the Plant Phenome Journal. This scalable, machine vision technology assesses size, shape, and color of potatoes with high precision, streamlining the breeding process. This AI-driven method, also capable of detecting defects and inferring weight, offers a new approach to selecting and cultivating superior potato varieties, significantly advancing the field.

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HZPC’s mission in the Andes: Protecting potato diversity and supporting farmers

In Peru’s Andes, efforts by HZPC and the CIP are preserving potato genetic diversity with direct farmer support through the AGUAPAN initiative. Around 100 farming families who conserve up to 300 ancient potato varieties benefit from financial contributions, tackling poverty and enhancing well-being. Researchers strive to document these landraces, including a ‘potato field guide’ for the over 3,000 unique varieties.

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James Hutton Institute spearheads global food security with new National Potato Innovation Centre

The James Hutton Institute plans to establish the National Potato Innovation Centre to bolster food security, focusing on potatoes’ role in global strategies. The NPIC will utilize a new glasshouse complex to breed potato varieties suited to warmer, sustainable environments. With a reputation in potato science and a history of R&D success, the institute’s facility, housing the Commonwealth Potato Collection, aims to promote drought tolerance and disease resistance in potatoes, thereby future-proofing the UK industry.

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Albert Bartlett to develop new potato varieties to replace Maris Piper

UK potato supplier Albert Bartlett plans to develop alternative potato varieties due to the Maris Piper’s challenges, amidst rising costs and erratic yields from extreme weather. Issues with floods, droughts, and increased energy and fertilizer prices have impacted production. Varieties like King Edwards and Maris Peer, though popular, are difficult and costly to grow. With profit margins thinning, an agronomy team is focusing on climate-resilient alternatives.

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Navigating global challenges: Royal HZPC Group matches previous year’s success and prepares for leadership change

Royal HZPC Group weathered a difficult 2023 in potato breeding, with reduced yields in Europe but expected financial parity with the previous year. Adapting through sales of top seed sizes and exceptional permissions outside the EU, the company offset a 10% European sales drop with a global 3% tonnage increase. A stable €420 million turnover is projected despite debt collection concerns. CEO Gerard Backx will retire in 2024, succeeded by seasoned executive Hans Huistra, promising continued growth and innovation.

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‘Potato perfection’: Breakthrough research by USDA scientists promises year-round high-quality potato supply

Scientists at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) use innovative technology to study the lifecycle of potatoes, ensuring a high-quality supply year-round for various food processing facilities, restaurants, and grocery stores. Challenges faced by potato producers include climate and disease-related issues during crop production and long-term storage. Collaborative efforts with growers and universities aim to address post-harvest physiological challenges and evaluate advanced potato breeding material for improved storage and quality characteristics.

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Spuds in space: China’s pioneering mission to harness cosmic qualities for superior potatoes

Scientists in China have initiated a pioneering project in agriculture by cultivating over 60,000 potato seeds that spent five months in space. These seeds, brought back by the Shenzhou XVI space mission, are being nurtured at the Shangdu Potato Technology Innovation Center in Inner Mongolia. Using advanced techniques like CRISPR, researchers aim to enhance traits such as disease resistance and salt-alkali tolerance.

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Texas A&M Potato Breeding Program highlights market, varietal expansions

At Potato Expo 2024, Dr. Isabel Vales will showcase Texas A&M Potato Breeding Program’s latest advancements, including a heat-tolerant potato clone ideal for Texas. Vales will also discuss the possibility of having a Texas-bred, Texas-grown, and Texas-processed french fry variety and high-yield fresh market varieties like Vanguard Russet and the promising potential of specialty potatoes. The program’s use of genomic selection benefits growers, chip processors, and consumers by predicting desirable traits.

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New head of breeding program wants to save Maine potatoes from climate change

Researchers at the University of Maine are using DNA science to develop climate-resilient potatoes for the region. Mario Andrade, the new head of the potato breeding program, plans to focus on heat tolerance and disease resistance. Collaborating with his predecessor, Gregory Porter, Andrade aims to leverage DNA technology for potato breeding, addressing Maine’s concerns about drought and excess moisture. This innovative approach marks a significant shift in agricultural practices.

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Potato breeding pioneer retires after 38 years at UMaine

Greg Porter, an Aroostook County native, retires after 38 years at the University of Maine. As a professor of agronomy, he led the potato breeding program and developed the successful Caribou Russet. Now a professor emeritus, Porter plans to enjoy hobbies and spend time with family. Recognized for his work, he received the Maine Potato Industry Recognition Award. He will wrap up research projects and collaborate with his successor, Mario Andrade.

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Gamma rays meet their match: Researcher develops new potato that sniffs out nuclear radiations

Rob Sears, a PhD student at the University of Tennessee, developed a potato plant that glows green in response to gamma radiation, serving as a natural radiation detector. This phytosensor is ideal for widespread use due to potatoes’ resilience and adaptability. The innovation offers a simple, cost-effective method for radiation monitoring, potentially enhancing safety in nuclear energy contexts. As nuclear energy continues to be used across the world, there is an increased demand for effective and easily accessible radiation detection methods.

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Argentinian scientists develop first Latin American genetically edited potato to prevent enzymatic browning

Argentinian scientists from INTA are set to release Latin America’s first genetically edited potato, developed using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. This innovation, part of Dr. Matías González’s doctoral thesis, aims to inhibit the gene causing enzymatic browning, a process that affects potatoes’ flavor, texture, and nutritional value. The edited potato could significantly reduce food waste and financial losses for farmers and retailers.

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Kenyan scientists developed new GM potato variety free from late blight disease

Kenyan researchers have engineered a blight-resistant GM potato, potentially transforming agriculture by increasing yields and minimizing pesticide use. The “Global Biotech Potato Partnership” project has shown promising results in confined field trials across Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria. The collaborative project, after promising trials, anticipates boosting harvests from 10 to 40 tonnes per hectare. Awaiting regulatory approval, this innovation could significantly enhance food security and sustainability, marking a major advance in biotech crops.

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The future of potato breeding: Royal HZPC’s revolutionary universal variety set a game-changer

Royal HZPC Group is set to revolutionize potato research with a new universal variety set for academic institutions, launching on November 3, 2023. Available from January 1, 2024, within the EU, this set offers diverse in vitro plantlets to expedite research. It embodies Royal HZPC’s commitment to sustainable potato breeding and global food supply, inviting collaboration to advance knowledge and improve crop understanding. More information is available at

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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 in Beijing, British scientist Philip Kear is cultivating disease-resistant potatoes within the greenhouse of the China Center for Asia and the Pacific (CCCAP) of the International Potato Center (CIP). Kear aims to enhance potato productivity in China and globally. The initiative also seeks to identify genes resistant to various diseases, fostering international cooperation to combat challenges like potato late blight.

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How biofortified potatoes can become a game-changer in the battle against anemia of children

Hugo Campos, roots, tubers and banana breeding lead at CGIAR, discusses the global challenge of anemia, especially in children, in a recent article published by The Des Moines Register. Highlighting the higher prevalence in low-income countries, Campos emphasizes the potential of biofortification. The International Potato Center’s development of iron-enriched potatoes aims to combat anemia. These potatoes can provide essential iron, especially in regions with high potato consumption. This innovation offers a sustainable solution to address iron deficiencies and improve global health.

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The CRISPR/Cas genome editing system and its application in potatoes

Researchers from Shandong Agricultural University in China have published a paper on the applications of the CRISPR/Cas system in potato breeding. The paper highlights the advantages of CRISPR/Cas over older technologies, emphasizing its simplicity and efficiency. Potatoes, being the third most consumed food globally, can benefit from this technology to improve yield, quality, and stress resistance. The CRISPR/Cas system has been used to address challenges like late blight resistance, enzymatic browning, and enhancing nutritional quality.

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Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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