Identifying and characterizing Verticillium resistance in potato

Soil-borne Verticillium species cause vascular wilt diseases on a wide range of plant species, including economically important crops. Potato early dying disease, or Verticillium wilt, can cause severe losses on potato yield and quality, especially since symptoms often remain confused with senescence and tolerant plants allow accumulation of inoculum in the soil.

So far, Verticillium wilt is being controlled by environmentally harmful soil fumigants. In this project, we aim to identify and characterize genetic resistance against Verticillium in wild Solanum accessions. We will exploit a functional effectoromics breeding strategy, combined with modern sequencing technologies. By expressing proteins secreted by the pathogen (effectors), we will detect the corresponding resistance genes in Solanum plants based on specific defence responses in functional assays.

With the available Verticillium genome sequence, knowledge on effectors and in house expertise on sequencing strategies such as resistance gene enrichment sequencing and derivatives thereof, the isolation of new resistance genes from these sources is straightforward. In parallel to the effector assays, we will subject wild Solanum plants to diseases trials and optimize a diagnostic assay for Verticillium. This effector-assisted breeding project will lead to the identification of resistant sources, molecular markers and resistance genes against Verticillium in potato. These results will enable the involved companies to breed for novel varieties that are resistant to Verticillium wilt.