Potato is the most important noncereal food crop globally. It has over 100 wild relatives in the Solanum section Petota, which features species with both sexual and asexual reproduction and varying ploidy levels.
With the changing climate, ensuring sustainable food supplies worldwide is challenging. Wild potato species can teach us much about what genetic traits are critical in adapting to climate change and extreme weather, enhancing nutritional quality, and improving food security.
Researchers from McGill University are working to increase potatoes’ nutritional value and durability. To find the genetic characteristics that could contribute to developing the next super spud, Professor Martina Strömvik and her team created a potato super pangenome.
This super pangenome highlights the potato’s genetic diversity and what genetic traits could be bred into our modern-day crop to improve it. It is the most extensive collection of genome sequence data for the potato and its relatives to date.
Using supercomputers to create the potato pangenome, the researchers used data from public databanks, including gene banks in Canada, the United States, and Peru.
According to the researchers, the pangenome can answer numerous queries regarding the development of this significant crop, which Indigenous peoples in the southern Peruvian mountains domesticated nearly 10,000 years ago. To develop a super potato utilizing conventional breeding or gene-editing techniques, it might also be used to help pinpoint specific genes.
Professor Strömvik said, “Scientists hope to develop something that can defend against various forms of diseases and better withstand extreme weather like lots of rain, frost, or a drought.”
This super pangenome represents 60 species.
- Ilayda Bozan, Sai Reddy Achakkagari, Noelle L. Anglin, David Ellis, Helen H. Tai, and Martina V. Strömvik. Pangenome analyses reveal the impact of transposable elements and ploidy on the evolution of potato species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2211117120