The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium (PGSC), an international team of scientists including some from Teagasc in Ireland, has published the "genetic blueprint" for the world's third most important food crop.
Scientists say the information will help plant scientists and breeders to improve yield, quality, nutritional value and disease resistance pf potato varieties. The PGSC say it should also allow potato breeders "reduce the 10-12 years currently needed to breed new varieties".
The potato genome is the first sequence of an Asterid to be published - a group of flowering plants encompassing around 25% of all known plant species.
The consortium published a draft sequence in 2009 after a meeting of the consortium in Oakpark, Carlow in Ireland to plan the final phases of the project. The most recent publication is a refined version covering approximately 95% of all the genes in the potato - around 39,000 genes that code for proteins.
Worldwide, it's estimated that a loss of about €3 billion per year in the potato crop arises from diseases such as late blight and potato cyst nematodes. These problems are still largely controlled by frequent applications of fungicides and nematicides.
An indepth knowledge of the genetics of the potato should allow scientists to develop new varieties which show high levels of resistance against these pests and diseases.
The potato genome has 12 chromosomes and an extimate 840 million base pairs.
Speaking on the release of the first draft, Professor Jimmy Burke, head of Teagasc Crops Research Centre and leader of the plant biotechnology programme said: “Research such as this is incredibly important to the future competitiveness of Irish agriculture and puts Teagasc at the forefront of exciting developments in science”.
Combining our expertise in plant breeding with cutting-edge biotechnology-based research is enhancing our ability to develop plant varieties suitable for Irish conditions and agricultural practices. We are pursuing similar projects in other species important to agriculture here in Ireland, including perennial ryegrass, white clover and wheat, and energy crops, and we expect similar successes in these species in the future”.
The Nature paper is available here.
The full sequence is available here.