For the first time ever, an international team of researchers has compiled a map showing exactly which species of the pathogen Phytophthora infestans are present in the potato fields of Europe. Collecting more information about the genetic background of phytophthora may help potato growers to protect their crops more efficiently in the future.
The inventory was drawn up last year by the European Euroblight partnership, an alliance in which research institutes and the potato industry are working together to make potato farming more sustainable, and to find ways of containing this highly resilient potato disease. Field staff from crop protection companies and potato growers collected a total of 795 samples. Using a technique from forensic science, they compiled genetic ‘fingerprints’ by rubbing parts of infected plants on special cardboard cards. The samples were analysed in two laboratories; the James Hutton Institute in Scotland and at Wageningen UR. The results are being stored in a central depot in the Danish Aarhus University.
The Netherlands has been mapping these populations for a number of years now, which has resulted in a clear picture of how they are developing. The European inventory will be followed up in 2014, as the shift in populations provides valuable information that may help growers in their choice of varieties, enhance the reliability of disease warning systems and enable large-scale use of fungicides to protect crops.