Seed World

Research Finds Gene Editing Can Aid Fight Against Potato Blight

Potatoes are an extremely important food crop worldwide, only falling after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. The potato production world faces the threat of potato late blight. Potato late blight causes the global loss of three to ten billion euros yearly in yield and management costs. Daniel Moñino-López, WUR researcher, made a breakthrough discovery during his PhD studies according to a release. Moñino-López has found a way to use gene editing technology CRISPR/Cas to make potato plants resistant to late blight disease caused by Phytophthora infestans without putting foreign DNA in the potato genome.

Moñino-López is earning his PhD from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) with research funding from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.

Through gene editing technology CRISPR/Cas, Moñino-López was able to modify non-functional resistance genes from potatoes that are at risk to late blight. Moñino-López modified them into gene variants that are resistant to Phytophthora infestans found in wild potatoes. This reduces the pesticide use needed to control the potato late blight disease.

“The CRISPR/Cas technology has the potential to change the food and agricultural industries by making the breeding of new, improved varieties faster and more precise. Moreover, this technology has the potential to be employed for a wide range of traits, including resistances to other diseases and pests, nutritional contents, and flavor,” according to the release.

Conventional breeding methods have allowed the resistant genes to be introduced to the new varieties, but the disease adapts quickly. This technology can help not only potato crops but other crops as well and cuts down on the time-consuming breeding process.

Though gene edited crops is still currently under debate following the ruling of the European Court of Justices in July 2018, the European Commission has concluded that the current legislation is not fit for the purpose for targeted mutagenesis. The European Commission will be discussing and proposing new regulations concerning gene editing technology in 2023.