Uganda eagerly awaits disease-resistant potato

Late potato blight is the most destructive potato disease in the world costing developing countries USD 10 billion every year. In Uganda, demand for Victoria potatoes is increasing, particularly from lucrative urban markets. However, a destructive fungal-like disease – late blight – has taken root on many farms. Late blight disease costs potato farmers in developing countries an estimated USD 10 billion per year globally in crop loss and agrochemicals.

“In Uganda, 300,000 farmers depend on potato for income generation and food. Late blight significantly reduces family incomes and poses risks to human and environmental health,” says Dr. Eric Magembe, a Research Scientist with the International Potato Center (CIP). “Unfortunately, the varieties most popular with farmers and consumers, like Victoria, are particularly susceptible to it.” Magembe conducts laboratory experiments at Tennessee State University to identify the best transgenic lines.

CIP scientists set to work to make Victoria resistant to late blight taking three resistant genes from Mexican and Argentinian wild potato relatives and transferring those genes into five farmer-favorite potato varieties used across sub-Saharan Africa, including Victoria. 

“As the pathogen continually evolves, we needed to act fast,” says Dr. Marc Ghislain, Senior Biotechnologist, CIP. “Conventional breeding is just too slow. Biotechnology puts varieties in farmers’ fields much more quickly. In just three years, we have improved Victoria – called 3R Victoria – that can now grow without a single spray of fungicide”. 


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