Scientists from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and Solynta, a Dutch potato breeding and biotech company that invented hybrid potato breeding, have published the most complete genome sequence for potatoes to date. A unique aspect is that both sequence and plant material are made available for research (under specific conditions). This may in the future result in a potato that is more resistant to heat or drought or has a greater resistance to diseases.

The potato is one of the most important food crops worldwide. Improvements to its traits can therefore have a major impact. Reading the genome structure of the potato is extremely tricky, however, as a regular potato consists of four genomes, which makes it difficult to determine the position of the genes. The recent research applied a diploid real potato plant with only one genome, a so-called homozygote, which makes it easier to read and compare the DNA base sequence. This plant, Solyntus, was produced as part of Solynta’s hybrid potato breeding program.

“The previously available genome sequence, which I also helped establish, consisted of approximately 125,000 small segments,” said Richard Visser, professor at the department of plant breeding at WUR. “The genome we are presenting now comprises 185 large segments. This is a significant improvement which was achieved via a combination of unique plant material and new sequencing and analysis techniques. While the previous sequence involved a wild variety of the potato, we have now used an actual potato plant. I hope—and expect—that our work will eventually lead to a more efficient and faster potato breeding process.”

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