Re: Cause of Potato Famine & Why Its Coming Back
Posted by Mike B. on 12/28/09
So......how do you make the leap to the conclusion that the
potato famine is coming back?
On 12/27/09, Deborah wrote:
> 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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