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Developing a drought-resistant potato in Atlantic Canada

Federal scientists in Atlantic Canada are focusing on developing a potato breed with enhanced adaptability to the changing climate conditions. Bourlaye Fofana, a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, is spearheading a team in Charlottetown, exploring wild potato varieties from the South American Andes. These varieties are considered promising for cultivating a potato that could better withstand drought, aiming for the North American markets.

The Agriculture Department acknowledges the existence of over 5,000 potato varieties globally, yet the genetic diversity among commercial types remains limited. This reduction in genetic variance has implications for disease resilience and climate adaptability. "We see a lot of problems because genetic diversity among these cultivated commercial varieties is quite narrow," Fofana stated, highlighting the potential future challenges posed by climate change and heat waves.

Fofana's work involves wild Peruvian potato varieties, which are diploid, containing two chromosome sets. This genetic structure simplifies laboratory research, facilitating the identification of genetic markers that could be applied to tetraploid commercial varieties, which have four chromosome sets. Despite their smaller size, these wild potatoes resemble conventional commercial varieties in appearance and have been under study since 2014. Fofana notes the promising yield, tuber size, and quality of the clones developed, including satisfactory starch content and processing quality.

Fofana emphasizes the importance of enhancing crop resilience as Atlantic Canada faces drier and hotter conditions due to climate change. The goal is to proactively adapt crop and cropping systems to these emerging challenges, especially in areas with limited water resources.


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