Research shows GM potato variety combined with new management techniques can cut fungicide use by up to 90%
Teagasc have concluded their field study which investigated both the environmental and agronomic impact of a GM potato variety genetically engineered to resist late blight disease, caused by Phytophthora infestans.
Potato late blight can rapidly destroy potato crops with growers commonly having to resort to spraying their crops with fungicides on a near weekly basis.
Teagasc research indicates that combining a cisgenic blight resistant potato with advanced Integrated management systems can reduce the environmental impact of potato production by over 95pc.
As part of the EU funded ‘AMIGA’ project and in collaboration with Wageningen University, Teagasc looked at issues such as the efficacy of disease control and the resulting environmental impact during cultivation of a susceptible potato variety (Désirée) and two different resistant potato varieties: Sarpo Mira, developed through conventional breeding, and a resistant version of the Désirée which received a resistance gene from a wild potato through cisgenesis.
Cisgenesis allows enrichment of existing potato varieties in as little as 3 years versus current potato breeding programmes that require 12 years or more to produce a novel variety.
After undergoing independent peer-review, the findings from 3 years of field evaluations have been published in the scientific journals European Journal of Agronomy and BMC Ecology.
The research, conducted in both The Netherlands and Ireland, has concluded that integrated production strategies that include varieties with enhanced genetic resistance against late blight disease can reduce the average fungicide input by 80-90pc, without compromising control efficacy or yield.
This can provide more durable control options for farmers while significantly reducing the crop’s environmental footprint.
The international team developed an ‘IPM2.0’ approach which includes late blight resistant varieties and builds on the preventive principles of Integrated Pest Management.
IPM2.0 could permit growers to strongly reduce the necessary input of chemical control agents.
It also ensures a yield equivalent to current practise, protects the limited natural germplasm used to create the resistant varieties and significantly reduces the environmental impact of potato cultivation as a whole.
The IPM2.0 approach adds three extra components to the current control strategy for potato late blight: the use of resistant varieties, active monitoring of the late blight pathogen and a ‘do not spray unless’ strategy, which dictates that a grower only needs to apply fungicides when a resistant variety is at risk of infection due to pathogen adaptation.
This strategy ensures potato crops are protected at all times while minimising the risk that resistance genes lose their efficacy.
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