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UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The quikgro potato; an early maturing multiple stress tolerant potato crop for sub-Saharan Africa

Disclaimer: The data for this page has been produced from IATI data published by UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Please contact them (Show Email Address) if you have any questions about their data.

Programme Data Last Updated: 23/03/2022

IATI Identifier: GB-GOV-13-FUND--GCRF-BB_P022553_1


Potato is a most important staple food and cash crop contributing both to food security and the local economy in countries of sub Saharan Africa (SSA) such as Kenya and Malawi. It is grown mainly by small holder farmers in the highland regions (>1500 m asl) since tuber development requires cool temperatures. Demand for potatoes is growing and the major challenge is to develop local varieties adapted to agronomic and environmental conditions found at lower altitudes to expand the production areas. Key to our proposal is to combine stress tolerance (biotic and abiotic) with the development of early maturing cvs (EMCs) (reaching full maturity in 60-70 days ""the Quikgro potato"" compared with over 100 days for most commercial varieties). We expect that EMCs will produce tubers that bulk quickly in warmer environments, mitigating the effect of short rainy seasons and droughts. EMCs will also be less susceptible to disease (due to a phenomenon called mature plant resistance; MPR) and the shorter growth cycle would allow potato to fit in rotation with other crops such as rice and wheat. Thus this innovation would have multiple benefits for the people of SSA. Breeding potatoes to obtain germplasm with improved stress tolerances has proved very difficult as potato is tetraploid (it has 4 sets of each chromosome) and exhibits complex inheritance patterns making it a very long term process to achieve improvements in such genetically complex traits. Our approach is to avoid stresses by developing potato varieties that mature early (within 70 days) as our preliminary data indicates that this trait is controlled by a few dominant genes making it a more amenable breeding target. Advances in understanding the control of tuber formation in potato have defined some of the components of day length signalling that lead to tuberisation such as the discovery of an additional version of the gene (StSP6A) that is associated with tuber formation under long days. Additionally, in transgenic tester lines, silencing of a gene encoding CEN1/TERMINAL FLOWER1, significantly decreases the time to both tuber and flower initiation. Thus the presence of a particular allelic variant impacts on the timing of tuber initiation providing a novel breeding strategy to develop early maturing potatoes. In further work (funded by ERA CAPS Hotsol BB/M004899/1) we have identified a gene that (designated StHot1) that confers extreme heat tolerance when tested in model systems. Virus diseases are a major constraint of potato production systems in Kenya and Malawi. Mature potato plants are known to develop resistance to disease as they age (MPR). Our recent investigations (funded by BBSRC BB/L011840/1) have shown that resistance is induced at the onset of flowering, therefore, we hypothesise that early maturing plants will be more virus resistant. In addition, viruses can be controlled by natural resistance genes and previously we have identified natural resistance to potyviruses in the potato types (described above) that have also been studied for earliness and tuberisation. The resistance, has been genetically mapped and a marker developed. Using our network of established contacts, we introduced a virus resistant cultivar Mayan Gold containing this resistance to Kenya. Mayan Gold passed Kenyan National Performance Trials and since release has proved highly successful. We will investigate the function of the newly identified gene targets to achieve proof of principle that EMC's will avoid both abiotic and biotic stresses. We shall screen a range of germplasm to test whether potato lines containing markers for earliness and stress tolerance will perform better in the African environment. Exchange with SSA scientists will enhance expertise in modern breeding and diagnostic technologies. Networks will be strengthened to engage all local stakeholders for knowledge exchange and feedback to translate findings into acceptable and practical outcomes.


We aim to exploit existing research findings on potato tuber initiation, formation, heat tolerance and virus resistance to develop the tools to breed an early maturing, heat and disease resistant potato (the quikgro potato). Our hypothesis is that shortening the potato growing cycle will enable avoidance or mitigate the effects of abiotic stress and disease. Objective 1. Impact of CEN-1 on the tuber life cycle and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses Key outcomes from the current portfolio of BBSRC funded research include new targets for heat tolerance and virus resistance. In order to combine these outputs with early maturity it is necessary to conduct some further underpinning research to capitalise on our recent discoveries about tuber initiation. Therefore a detailed characterisation of CEN-1 transgenic lines will be conducted to determine the impact of this gene on different phases of the tuber life cycle. As the CEN-1 transgenic lines exhibit major shifts in flowering time we shall test whether onset of flowering coincides with acquisition of mature plant resistance to virus. Within the biparental diploid 06H1 population, we have identified allelic variants of CEN-1 associated with accelerated tuber life-cycle traits. The impact of the allelic variants will be assessed as for the transgenic lines. Objective 2. Initiate screening protocols to test the hypothesis that potato genotypes containing markers for earliness, and stress tolerance will perform better in the African environment We will move the outcomes from BBSRC-funded research towards application in LMICs by developing a panel of markers that identify alleles that impact on the target traits (tuber maturity, heat stress tolerance and virus resistance). For tuber maturity three target genes will include StSp6a, StCDF1 and CEN-1. For heat tolerance we have identified an HSc70 allele associated with yield at elevated temperature. Previously we have identified natural resistance to viruses in S. tuberosum Group Phureja clones which is dominant and broad spectrum for several potyviruses, mapped to Chr 9 and a marker developed. Initially we propose to work with the diploid 06H1 population and develop markers for the alleles identified (maximum of four alleles per locus). We propose to extend this approach to tetraploid varieties by investigation of the allelic composition in the CIP Trait Observation Network population, extensively phenotyped in a range of environments across Asia and Africa. Objective 3. Science exchange with SSA scientists to enhance knowledge and expertise in the principles and practice of marker assisted selection The outputs from this foundation award will include candidate markers and germplasm that will be further developed in future projects towards breeding for commercial release. To build on these outputs and bid for further funding we shall provide training for early stage African researchers in marker assisted selection, other modern breeding technologies and diagnostic methods. The UK labs will host visits from early stage researchers from DARS Malawi and MMUST Kenya to provide this training. Objective 4. Build a consortium of actors in the potato sub sector to engage local stakeholders, to discuss and disseminate results about the quikgro potato Maximum impact will be achieved as the project combines cutting edge research in potato in the UK with a network of African scientists (Mwenye/Demo/Were) and their public and non-public extension agents who work closely with farmers' clubs and associations to deliver clean planting material, agronomy training, and dialogue with farmers on production methods and preferences. The networks will be a major impact pathway to allow the dissemination of our results and raise awareness of modern agricultural and entrepreneurial technologies among small-holder farmers, merchants and other local actors in the potato value chain.

Status - Post-completion More information about Programme status
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