I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.
Baked, fried, mashed, dried even french-fried. Let's hear it for the potato, the world's number one non-grain food and a primary staple in developed and non-developed countries. Could it be any better? An international consortium of scientists believes so and has been mapping the spud's genome since 2006. Now, for the first time, they're able to directly link a potato's genes with their functions.
Once you know how a potato works, you could use that knowledge to develop strains that are more nutritious, more disease-resistant and less dependent on pesticides.
As world population increases, the development of a "super-tuber" may be just what's needed to help many countries feed their growing numbers. It's already a convenient crop, because it can be grown under a wide range of soils and conditions. Mountains, plains, plateaus even tropical lowlands.
These new strains will by no means be "instant" potatoes. But this first real genetic blueprint could enable scientists and breeders to develop more nutrient-rich, more naturally disease-resistant ones cutting down on the large amounts of pesticides used with current growing methods.
And that will be -- Ouch! Ouch! -- one "hot potato."
"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.