An international team of scientists reveals that a unique strain of potato blight they call HERB-1 triggered the Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century.
It is the first time scientists have decoded the genome of a plant pathogen and its plant host from dried herbarium samples. This opens up a new area of research to understand how pathogens evolve and how human activity impacts the spread of plant disease.
Phytophthora infestans changed the course of history.
Even today, the Irish population has still not recovered to pre-famine levels. "We have finally discovered the identity of the exact strain that caused all this havoc," says Hernán Burbano from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology.
SOURCE: Max Planck Institute