CGIAR Borlaug awarded to the MCIC

July 16, 2018

The MCIC was awarded a CGIAR Borlaug fellowship to host and provide training to Myriam Izzarra from the International Potato Center (CIP), in Lima Peru. The aim of her project was to characterize the genetic variation in P. infestans populations from different Peruvian regions/environments and potato hosts using high trhroughput sequencing methodologies.

The potato was first domesticated between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago, in the Andean region near Lake Titicaca in western Peru (Ames and Spooner, 2008). Peru is the center of potato diversity. In addition to 100-180 wild potato species, which are thought to be the original ancestors of today’s cultivated potato, there are now more than 4,500 varieties of native potatoes varieties grown in the Andes. Potato has been essential to the Peruvian diet for many centuries and it is their primary food crop. In 2015 4.5 million tons of potatoes were produced in Peru with more than eighty percent of this crop being produced by small-scale farmers on less than one hectare parcels.  Only five percent of the production is on fields larger than twenty hectares. Farmers in the Andes grow native varieties, which differ from community to community and are traded among communities. Potato diversity is conserved on farms and in communities for subsistence use and as a highly valued heritage.

Phytophthora infestans is a constant threat to potato production in particular on small Andean farms high in cool moist climate areas. Management of this devastating pathogen is very challenging mainly because of the pathogens genetic diversity and its remarkable capacity of adaptation to control practices, which include deployment of genetically resistant/tolerant potato cultivars and fungicide application. The goal of Myriam’s project is to link the genetic markers to the pathogenicity and other important phenotypic traits of various P. infestans strains, which will enable deployment of more effective disease management practices.

Tea Meulia spent a week at the CIP in Lima Peru, familiarizing herself with the project and planning for Myriam’s training. We visited small potato growers high in the Andes near Cuzco and collected P. infestans. Myriam spent three months at the MCIC preparing RNA-Seq and GBS Illumina libraries. The project is still on going with data being analyzed.