Re: Cause of Potato Famine & Why Its Coming Back
Posted by Deborah on 12/27/09
Malaria, potato famine pathogen share surprising trait
On 12/27/09, Sharon wrote:
> (NaturalNews) Researchers have sequenced the genome of the
> fungus responsible for the Great Irish Potato Famine in the
> 1800s, uncovering the reason that the organism continues to
> plague potato farmers to this day.
> "This pathogen has an exquisite ability to adapt and
> change, and that's what makes it so dangerous," said lead
> researcher Chad Nusbaum of the Broad Institute in
> Cambridge, Mass.
> The organism, known as Phytophthora infestans, is a type of
> water mold that continues to cost potato farmers billions
> of dollars every year. It prefers cool, wet climates and is
> capable of destroying entire fields of potatoes and
> tomatoes within only a few days. In 2003, P. infestans
> destroyed Papua New Guinea's entire potato crop.
> The mold evolves resistance to antifungal sprays with
> astonishing speed. In just the last few years, potato
> farmers in the United Kingdom have increased chemical
> spraying by 30 percent in an attempt to hold the organism
> at bay, and the ongoing blight in Ireland has been
> called "the worst in living memory," according to the BBC.
> According to information published in the journal Nature,
> P. infestans' genome is especially large, at least twice as
> long as the genetic code of its closest relatives. Some
> regions of the genome are particularly dense, containing
> many genes in a small area, while others are much less
> dense. It is these gene-light areas that may hold the key
> to the organism's adaptability: more than 700 key genes
> were mapped in these regions, some of them coding for
> attacks on potatoes' immune systems.
> "The regions change rapidly over time, acting as a kind of
> incubator to enable the rapid birth and death of genes that
> are key to plant infection," said co-lead author Brian
> Haas. "As a result, these critical genes may be gained and
> lost so rapidly that the hosts simply can't keep up."
> Modern agriculture has exacerbated the problem, said Paul
> Birch of the Scottish Crop Research Institute. Widespread
> application of chemicals encourages pest evolution, while
> genetic standardization of food crops makes them more
> vulnerable to infestation.
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