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Drought tolerance in potatoes
Date:6/27/2008

Climate change is expected to exacerbate drought events throughout the world, resulting in large-scale ecosystem alteration and failure of drought-sensitive crops. In addition, periods of drought vary from year to year in severity and length, making it difficult for plants to adapt to more severe conditions. Many modern varieties of potatoes are considered to be drought-sensitive. However, evolution and cultivation in the cold, dry Andean Altiplano gave rise to a number of potato varieties that could tolerate drought. Scientists are studying these varieties to identify the genes and molecular mechanisms of drought tolerance in order to engineer new drought-resistant crops of potato, as well as other Solanaceous vegetables.

Dr. Roland Schafleitner and his colleagues, Raymundo Oscar Gutierrez Rosales, Luz Rosalina Tincopa Marca, and Merideth Bonierbale, are examining the genes for drought tolerance traits in several native Andean potato landraces. Dr. Schafleitner, of the Germplasm Enhancement and Crop Improvement Division, International Potato Center in Peru, will be presenting this work at a symposium on the Biology of Solanaceous Species at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mrida, Mexico (June 29, 8:30 AM).

From tiny dark blue tubers to huge tan bakers, potatoes come in an astonishing variety of colors and sizes, reflecting their genetic variety as well as their long history of cultivation. Potato was first domesticated in the Peruvian Andes over 7,000 years ago and was carried to Europe in the late 16th century, becoming such an important food source that a failure in the crop caused by blight in Ireland triggered a famine. It is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, which also includes tomato, eggplant, tobacco, and chili peppers.

Drought first causes stomatal closure, reducing CO2 uptake for photosynthesis, reducing plant growth and yield. Plants vary in the types and speed
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Contact: Roland Schlafleitner
r.schafleitner@cgiar.org
511-349-6017
American Society of Plant Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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