Durable resistance against potato late blight

Project Details


Main research question/goal
Several European research institutes focus on the control of potato late blight (Phytophthora infestans). In this project ILVO is active within a Flemish research consortium that collaborates with the DuRPh project of the University of Wageningen to develop genetically modified, late blight resistant potatoes. The objective of this project is threefold: 1) Test the effectiveness of different (combinations of) resistance genes under actual Flemish field conditions. These resistance genes from wild potato species have been isolated and studied in previous research projects. 2) To contribute to the sustainable development of resistant potatoes for the Belgian potato industry and 3) contribute to nuanced judgments about GM crops.


Research approach
The central research question is to evaluate whether GM potatoes with or without built-in multiple natural resistance genes perform well in the field, without any protection from fungicides. For this purpose, we apply for federal governmental permission to carry out a two-year field trial. Subsequently, during the growing seasons 2011 and 2012 different transgenic and cisgenic potato lines with 1-3 different built-in resistance genes were planted in a field trial. In addition to the GM lines, a number of more or less sensitive and resistant non-GM lines were included as reference. During these two seasons, the researchers carried out detailed observations to identify the extent to which each of the lines respond to the present disease. In the case of infection, leaves were collected to confirm the presence of Phytophthora and characterize the isolate at the DNA level.

Due to the favourable soil and climatic conditions, Flanders (Belgium) is one of the leading potato producers in Europe. Potato late blight disease remains the major and growing problem of the potato. Estimates predict the economic losses caused by the disease (control, prevention, crop losses) to be about 55 million euros per year for Belgium. Multiple disease resistant GM potato varieties offer long term opportunities to drastically reduce the large quantities of plant protection products  used. This can result in a more sustainable potato production system. The findings clarify which resistance genes are eligible to be used in different combinations in selected potato varieties. This field trial project also provides the opportunity to demonstrate the state-of-the-art of GM late blight resistant potatoes under Flemish conditions in to stakeholders from the potato sector.


External partner(s)
Hogeschool Gent - Dept. BIOT
Ugent - Fac. Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen
UGent - Fac. Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen
Wageningen UR - PRI-Plant Research International
Effective start/end date1/01/11 → …

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