Research discovery could provide strategy to increases yields

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James Hutton Institute plant scientists have discovered that a specific protein encoded by the potato genome is a key component of tuberisation, the process by which the potato plant initiates and develops tubers.

This discovery could be a key factor in increasing productivity, particularly in parts of the world where climate change is occurring and plant stress limits uptake.

The research findings have been unveiled in the latest issue of The Plant Journal, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme and the Scottish Government’s RESAS Strategic Research Programme.

It is hoped that the genetic discovery will enable potato breeders to develop fast-maturing, more resilient potato varieties that will safeguard production during climate change.

Dr Mark Taylor, who jointly heads up the Institute’s Potato Genetics and Physiology Group in Dundee was lead author of the study.

He said the earliness of tuberisation dictates the time to crop maturity.

“For years, potato breeders have exploited the natural variation in the onset of tuberisation to develop improved varieties for different latitudes, harvest times and markets where the effects of environmental and disease stresses are minimised," he said. “Understanding the mechanism of tuber initiation in potato provides a new strategy to increase yields of a crop that is absolutely pivotal for global food security.”