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Potato parasite toolkit revealed

Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, David Miller travel award recipient

23 Jun 2016

This June has been an exciting time for SCI Horticulture Committee member and previous recipient of the David Miller Travel Bursary, Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, who has been part of an international research collaboration led by the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute to sequence and identify the inner workings of the yellow potato cyst nematode (PCN) - a devastating parasite to crop farmers.

Earlier this year, UK potato crops for 2015 were valued a £547 million1 and yet farmers worldwide compete with parasitic nematode worms that cause billions of pounds in damage, by infecting crops through their root system2. These parasites can lie dormant in the soil for a period of up to 20 years and hence are known as the ‘hidden enemy’ of farmer’s world-wide.

Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker explains how the research may lead to new insights into how this parasite may be stopped:

‘Once we had sequenced the genome of the nematode, we uncovered a hidden genetic code, or signpost, that points towards the molecular tools the nematode uses against plants. We believe this genetic code is actually how the nematode categorises which genes it needs when infecting plants so, in a way, we can use their own signpost against them.

‘Using this information we will now be able to much better target how we can prevent nematode infection.’3

The results of this exciting research have been published in Genome Biology4 and SCI members can connect with Sebastian by logging on to the SCI Members’ directory.

References

  1. Total Income from Farming in the United Kingdom - First Estimate for 2015. National Statistics, 28 April 2016
  2. Nicol JM, Turner SJ, Coyne DL, den Nijs L, Hockland S, Maafi ZT. Current nematode threats to world agriculture. In: Jones J, Gheysen G, Fenoll C, editors. Genomics and molecular genetics of plant-nematode interactions. The Netherlands: Springer; 2011. p. 21-43
  3. Potato parasite’s ‘toolkit’ revealed. University of Dundee News, 13 June 2016.
  4. Eves-van den Akker S, Laetsch D.R, Thorpe P, Lilley C. J et al. The genome of the yellow potato cyst nematode, Globodera rostochiensis, reveals insights into the basis of parasitism and virulence. Genome Biology, 17:24, 10 June 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s13059-016-0985-1

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