Professor Jonathan Jones and colleagues at the Sainsbury Laboratory pioneered the "SMRT RenSeq" technique, which they said will significantly shorten the time needed to define new resistance genes.
Plant pathogens such as late blight can evolve rapidly to overcome resistance genes, so the team plans to stack several resistance genes together in one plant, leading to improved commercial crops, higher yields, lower environmental impact and lower costs, they explained.
Prevention measures and crop losses cost UK potato farmers around £55m a year, with blight management, chiefly in the form of fungicidal sprays, accounting for up to half of total production costs.
"Engineering disease resistance genes into crops is a continuous battle to stay one step ahead of new strains of disease, and scientists are constantly investigating how to speed up this process," said Jones. "This new technique significantly reduces the time and cost of isolating candidate resistance genes and has great potential for application to other desirable traits in potato and other crops."
TGAC project lead Dr Matt Clark added: "Thousands of years of selective crop breeding have brought with it a huge loss in genetic variation. Finding and using disease resistance genes from closely related plants is critical in the arms race against crop pathogens. This technique accelerates the process and, we hope, will help reduce crop losses to disease."