Potato breeding developments being researched by graduate students in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences look to save the future of Maine's iconic crop.
Graduate student Kristen Michelle Brown is working with two potato varieties from the University of Maine breeding program that will hopefully one day hold a late blight-resistant gene. This could help potato farmers save money, as late blight is a potato disease that spoils the crop.
"Late blight is a big problem in Aroostook County because the climate is so fantastic," Brown said. "The only way you can treat it is by pouring fungicides onto your plants.
"There are genes in a number of potato varieties which are late blight-resistant genes. The idea is that if you can get those genes into your potato varieties then you don't have to use as much fungicide," Brown said.
Brown's research is a reproduction of a 1977 experiment by researcher William Fry, who sought to develop a way to reduce the amount of fungicide used on potatoes. The fungicide used in the experiment and by potato farmers in northern climates today works to combat late blight pressure in potatoes.
SOURCE: Eric Berard, The Maine Campus