Researchers at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich have claimed genetically modified (GM) potatoes have shown resistance to late blight (Phytophthora infestans) without the use of fungicides.
The trial was conducted with Desiree potatoes in order to address the challenge of building blight resistance into existing mainstream varieties. These had a resistance-conferring gene inserted from a wild South American relative.
In 2012, the third year of the trial, conditions were ideal for ntaurally-occuring late blight. All the control on-transgenic Desiree plants were infected by early August, while all GM plants remained fully resistant to the end of the experiment.
There was also a difference in yield, with tubers from each block of 16 plants weighing 6-13 kg while the non-GM tubers weighed 1.6-5 kg per block.
Project leader Professor Jonathan Jones said: "With new insights into both the pathogen and its potato host, we can use GM technology to tip the evolutionary balance in favour of potatoes and against late blight."
The findings are published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Now in a new industrial partnership award with US company Simplot and the James Hutton Institute of Dundee, Sainsbury Laboratory researchers will continue to identify and experiment with multiple resistance genes, with the aim of developing Desiree and Maris Piper varieties able to fully withstand late blight attacks.