An international team of scientists belonging to The Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium (PGSC), including New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research have released the first draft sequence of the potato genome, after starting work on the project three years ago. The resulting blueprint that details how the potato works, may lead to the revolutionizing of breeding programmes.
A key member of the Solanaceae family, the potato is closely related to tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, including being the world’s third most important crop and the most important vegetable crop. Getting access to the potato genome sequence i. e. the genetic blueprint of how a potato plant grows and reproduces, will assist potato scientists in improving potato yields, quality, nutritional value and disease resistance varieties of the vegetable. More importantly, it will permit potato breeders to reduce the current 10-12 years required for breeding new varieties.
The Plant Breeding Department of Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands initiated the PGSC in January 2006, which has developed into a global consortium of research groups from 14-countries.
New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research is an original partner in the PGSC and its leader Dr Jeanne Jacobs, also a member of the PGSC steering committee says, the genome sequencing will benefit New Zealand, even as scientists learn about genetic control of important attributes like disease resistance, nutritional value, colour and flavour.