Finding the right genes to flatten potato common scab disease


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30 November 2020
Finding the right genes to flatten potato common scab disease

A PRINCE Edward Island-based research team led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researcher, Dr Bourlaye Fofana, has made some interesting genetic discoveries in its work to develop potato varieties that are resistant to common scab disease.

The team currently grows 814 different genetic lines of potatoes in fields at AAFC's Harrington Research Farm, in a drive to find potatoes that are resistant to disease, drought and greening. The research in one of the ways in which AAFC is exploring innovations to tackle food waste through the country's first-ever Food Policy for Canada, announced in July last year.

AAFC scientist and potato breeder David De Koeyer said: "Common scab resistance is a high priority trait within AAFC's potato breeding program. The work conducted by Dr. Fofana will introduce more precise screening tools that will help us identify resistance clones earlier in the breeding cycle." 

At AAFC laboratories in Charlottetown and its Harrington research farm in Prince Edward Island, Bourlaye recently completed comparative gene expression profiling by studying genes to find statistically significant differences between two potato varieties - one that regularly develops common scab (Green Mountain) and one that tends to develop fewer common scab symptoms (Hindenburg).

The research team identified a set of 273 different genes in 34 biochemical pathways (a series of connected biological reactions that support one another) that likely differentiate Green Mountain and Hindenburg potato varieties and that might be responsible for common scab resistance in some varieties of potatoes.

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The data suggests that comparative gene expression profiling can be used to predict common scab lesions in potato breeding varieties. Comparative gene expression profiling is the measurement of the activity (the expression) of thousands of genes at once. These gene activities are then compared between two organisms (potato variety).

Dr. Fofana is hopeful that, with additional research, this new information could help the Canadian potato breeding programs, including the breeders at AAFC's Fredericton Research and Development Centre in New Brunswick.

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