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    Re: Cause of Potato Famine & Why Its Coming Back

    Posted by Mike B. on 12/28/09 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:
    >> .html
    >> (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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