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Monday 23 October 2017

Wet weather won't blight Teagasc study

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Researchers on a small plot of land in Teagasc Oak Park are probably the only people in Ireland who are hoping for a wet summer this year to progress their research.

The Teagasc genetically modified (GM) potato trial is about to enter its second year at the Oak Park facility, investigating the effect of GM blight-resistant potatoes on the environment.

The trial, which is being ramped up in scale for 2013, will include over 1,750 GM Desiree potato plants, a further 1,750 non-GM Desiree plants and a further 1,750 plants of the organic potato variety Sarpo Mira.

In 2012, the trial only used 25 GM plants and 25 non-GM plants, in accordance with the term of its EPA licence. The 2012 study was a small-scale evaluation on whether the GM variety would grow in Ireland in the same way it has in previous trials in the Netherlands. But to ensure validity, the evaluations must be completed on a larger scale over three years.

Planting is expected to commence in the next fortnight and visitors will have a chance to see the plants up close at an open day in the Carlow research farm on June 26.

Scientist Dr Ewen Mullins said the organic variety Sarpo Mira was being included in the 2013 trial to see how Irish potato blight strains respond to a separate resistant variety.

Whereas the GM Desiree variety has one single wild potato blight resistant gene, studies have indicated that Sarpo Mira may contain up to five.

The trial, which will continue in 2014 and 2015, is part of a Europe-wide project called AMIGA that monitors the effect of GM plants on the agricultural environment.

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