Will Late Blight Ever Go Away?

Published online: Jul 21, 2021 Articles
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Source: Open Access Government

In a recent article, Andrivon Didier, research director at France's Insitute of Genetics, Environment & Plant Protection (INRAE), discusses the existential threat potato late blight poses to the global potato industry.

According to Didier, late blight, caused by the oomycete Phytophthora infestans, is a constant source of concern for the European potato and tomato industries. It imposes a severe burden on crop yield and quality, in both conventional and organic production systems and induce massive control costs and severe environmental pressure.

One of the most striking and tragic examples was the Great Famine, which unfolded in Ireland from 1845 to 1849. As a result of potato late blight, as many as 1 million Irish people are thought to have died of starvation. A further 1 million migrated to escape poverty and starvation, to North America and England. This was the darkest famine experienced by Europe in the 19th century, which makes the question of why potato late blight still exists even more urgent.

The agricultural situation in Ireland today is a far cry from where it was in the mid-1800s, at which time half of the rural population relied on potatoes as a source of food. But now, late blight disease threatens crops far and wide. Coupled with the impact of climate change on agricultural conditions, the food security issue remains ominously in existence.

But what can be done to stop it?

According to Didier, the answer to controlling blights is integrated pest management (IPM).

Didier explains, “A more complex strategy relying on a combination of control methods, such as prophylaxis (sanitation), resistant cultivars, biocontrol, decision support systems and precision agriculture.”

In the article, he further dives into facts and figures, explaining the intricacies of how IPM can be applied to prevent further devastation in relation to late blight from an expert perspective. If you want to know the secrets to protecting crops in the contemporary era from an antique, still powerful threat, then the answers are right here.