Scientists at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in Norwich have announced that the first year of field trials with GM potatoes designed to resist late blight, have worked “brilliantly”. The trials worked with three blight-resistant genes from a wild potato which were incorporated into the popular Maris Piper variety.
After the first year of the trial, the scientists observed a marked improvement in late blight resistance with a stark difference in health between the resistant and non-resistant plants. The leader of the project, Professor Jonathan Jones, said the initial results offered hope that there could be a way of controlling late blight without the need for chemical fungicide sprays. “The first year of the Maris Piper field trial has worked brilliantly. Crop diseases reduce yields and require application of agrichemicals, and this field trial shows that a more sustainable agriculture is possible.”
Alongside resistance to blight, next year’s field trials of modified Maris Piper will also carry traits to improve tuber quality. Two genes will be switched off in the plant – a process known as “silencing”. One goal is to make the new crop less prone to bruising damage and another is to reduce blackening and the formation of acrylamide when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures – as when frying chips or crisps.
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