Science - August 16, 2012

Potato test fields damaged

Two Wageningen UR test fields have been damaged last month. These fields, used to test GM potatoes and other crops, are located in Lelystad and Valthermond.

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The potato plants in the test plot of land in Lelystad were trampled upon, and those in Valthermond have been sprayed over with a weed killer. As a result, parts of the experiments have been sabotaged.
Wageningen UR is looking for ways to cultivate potato varieties which are resistant to Phytophthora, the cause of the potato blight disease, in a sustainable way. Besides genetic modification, the researchers use breeding techniques accepted in organic farming. The damaged test fields had about a hundred different types of potatoes: vulnerable potato varieties, wild species resistant to Phytophthora, genetically modified plants and organic resistant varieties. By gathering samples of Phytophthora from these plants, researchers can get an insight into the behaviour of the pathogen. This knowledge would enable resistant potato plants to be cultivated, thus cutting down on the use of fungicides.
The damages to the test fields, found out last week, are valued at several ten thousand euros. Plant Research International has plans to show its experiments on GM and organic potatoes to the public on 25 August. Fortunately, this will take place in Wageningen, where the test fields are still intact.

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