Bacterial soft rot resistance

Wageningen University is seeking commercial partners interested in developing plant varieties containing a novel gene that confers resistance to bacterial soft rot.


Pectobacterium carotovorum (formerly known as Erwinia carotovora) causes economically important plant diseases. Pectobacterium carotovorum is most renowned to cause soft rot and blackleg of potato. Blackleg and soft rot are economically important as they reduce potato yield and cause downgrading or rejection of potato seeds in certification processes. Moreover, Pectobacterium carotovorum is capable to cause disease in vegetables, ornamentals and many different tree species.

Several control strategies thus far have been studied, but with limited success. For potato no cultivars are available that show resistance to blackleg and soft rot disease caused by Pectobacterium carotovorum. Several wild potato species are known to have a high resistance and offspring of crosses between these wild species and commercial potato varieties have been obtained. This has not led to resistant potato lines so far.

The invention

Wageningen University scientists have identified and cloned a gene, known as LecRK-I.9, from Arabidopsis thaliana which shows high levels of resistance to Pectobacterium carotovorum. When expressed in potato, this gene confers bacterial soft rot resistance in the foliage of the plant.


Development of genetically modified potatoes and other Solanaceous plants, such as tomato, pepper or eggplant, that are resistant to bacterial soft rot. As LecRK-I.9 is known also to improve resistance to Phytophthora infestans (late blight) in potato, it should be feasible to improve resistance to two major potato pathogens in one go.


  • Provides a new gene for resistance to bacterial soft rot
  • May reduce expenses associated with crop loss
  • Can be used in combination with other resistance genes
  • May increase crop yields

Stage of development

Development phase – laboratory and greenhouse tested. Potato plants were transformed with the open reading frame of the LecRK-I.9 gene. They successfully exhibited the soft rot resistant phenotype.