Can researchers produce a potato resistant to climate change?

Researchers at the University of Maine are trying to produce potatoes that can better withstand warming temperatures as the climate changes.

Warmer temperatures and an extended growing season can lead to quality issues and disease, Gregory Porter, professor of ecology and crop management, told the Bangor Daily News.

“The forecast for climate change is higher rainfall, and potatoes don’t tolerate flooding or wet conditions for long without having other quality issues,” Porter said. “If we want potatoes to continue to be successfully produced in Maine, we need to be able to produce varieties that can withstand change.”

Around the world, research aimed at mitigating crop damage is ongoing. A NASA study released this month suggests that climate change could affect corn and wheat production, with corn yields expected to decline while wheat could see potential growth, as early as 2030 in a high emissions scenario. of greenhouse gases.

Maine is emerging from a banner potato crop thanks in part to the success of the caribou russet, which was developed by researchers at UMaine. But Porter worries that even this variety may not be as heat tolerant as needed to withstand the future effects of climate change.

Pests are another factor. Colorado potato beetle and disease-spreading aphids have thrived with climate change, said Jim Dill, a pest control specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Replicating seemingly minor changes, like hairier leaves, that prevent insects from moving on the plant, can reduce pest kills and also the need for pesticides, he said.

Breeding such traits in potatoes is a long process of cross pollination of different potato varieties.

The process is well under way.

They are currently in research testing at sites across the United States. Trial potatoes in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida are testing high temperature stress.

Researchers are trying to produce #potatoes resistant to #ClimateChange.

“It takes 10 years of breeding after that initial cross-pollination, and it can take two to five years before enough commercial evaluation has taken place to release a new potato variety,” Porter said.

This story has been corrected to show that the NASA study suggests that wheat production could increase, while corn yields could decrease, in a scenario of high greenhouse gas emissions.

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