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Press Release 11-137

New Genetic Map of Potato May Lead to Improved Crops

Improved potato crops would help feed the hungry

Image of various types of potatoes that are grown in Peru.


Various types of potatoes that are grown in Peru.
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July 11, 2011

View a video with Robin Buell of Michigan State University.

An international consortium of scientists has produced a new map of the potato genome that may lead to the development of an ultra-nutritious potato that could help feed the world's hungry.

By sequencing and identifying genes in the genome of the potato, the consortium has, for the first time, tied specific potato genes to their functions. Resulting insights into the growth and development of potatoes may enable scientists and breeders to produce potatoes that are more nutritious, more disease resistant and less dependent on pesticides than conventional potatoes.

The potato is the world's number one non-grain food commodity, and serves as a primary source of energy for many poor people in developing countries. What's more, the popularity of the potato is expected to increase as the world's population soars. Therefore, by improving the nutritional value of potato crops and making potatoes easier to grow, scientists will increase the nutritional intake of a large and expanding population of potato-dependent people.

The National Science Foundation funded the consortium's research, which was published online July 10 by the science journal Nature.

Potato crops are particularly popular in developing countries because they yield food quicker and require less land than any other major crop--major advantages in developing countries where pressure on land and water is fierce. In addition, potatoes can be grown in varied landscapes, including mountains, plains, plateaus and subtropical lowlands.

The consortium released a draft map of the potato genome in 2009. However, Robin Buell, a Michigan State University plant biologist who is a member of the consortium, explained, "since our initial release of the sequence in 2009, we have improved the quality, identified and analyzed the genes and analyzed the genetic basis for the biology of the potato and its tuber," which is the edible part of the potato.

For more information about the new genetic map of the potato, see Michigan State University's press release on honing the potato genome.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, lwhitema@nsf.gov
Layne Cameron, Michigan State University, (517) 353-8819, layne.cameron@ur.msu.edu

Program Contacts
Diane Okamuro, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-4400, dokamuro@nsf.gov

Co-Investigators
Robin Buell, Michigan State University, (517) 353-5597, Buell@msu.edu

Related Websites
Study reveals methods used by microbes that caused Irish Potato Blight: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=117036
Research on the family of plants that includes potatoes: http://solanaceae.plantbiology.msu.edu

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Image of Robin Buell of Michigan State University.
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Robin Buell of Michigan State University explains the importance of the potato genome.
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