10 July 1998

Nematode-resistant spuds on way

POTATO growers and the environment could soon benefit from varieties resistant to potato cyst nematode, claim researchers at Leeds University.

"In this country PCN (Globodera pallida) affects more than 50% of potato fields, costing growers about £20m/year," said Howard Atkinson, director of the plant breeding centre at Leeds. "Nematicides are essential for production, but there are environmental concerns with these products. Any technology like this, which could reduce use, has to be good."

Nematode-resistant varieties Desiree, Maris Piper and Sante are in trials in Yorks. If successful, commercial seed could be available in five years.

Developing nations may also benefit as patents for the gene are held by the university. They could pass on the technology free to countries such as Bolivia, where PCN causes large crop losses.

but which cannot afford to buy or develop the technology.