Researchers say virulent form of potato blight is global threat

British researchers who have investigated a new and highly aggressive lineage of Phytophthora infestans, the cause of potato late blight, say the disease is a potent threat to crops worldwide.

The team, from the James Hutton Institute (JHI), the Sainsbury Laboratory and other partners, used DNA-based forensic analysis to map how these more virulent forms have rapidly displaced other genotypes in Europe. In Britain, the new lineage has grown to make up more than three-quarters of the disease population in less than three years, they found.

Lead researcher Dr David Cooke of the JHI said of the highly variable 13_A2 lineage: "It is more difficult to control due to a combination of increased aggressiveness, an ability to overcome some sources of cultivar resistance and its resistance to a key fungicide."

He added: "Growers must remain alert. In a very wet summer, any weakness in the control strategy is exploited by the pathogen, resulting in severe crop losses."

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