The European Union’s Concerted Actions are intended to support the co-ordination of RTD tasks already financed at national level where the pooling of data would facilitate common interpretation of facts and contribute to the development of harmonised standards, procedures, methodologies, processes or common research instruments.
The project will be organised in three geographic regions: Western Europe, which will be administered by Didier Andrivon at INRA, Central Europe (Ewa Zimnoch-Guzowska, IHAR) and Nordic Europe (Arne Hermansen NCRI). There are two themes that run across these regions. The first, ‘Characterising host resistance’ will be led by Leontine Colon at PRI in The Netherlands and the second ‘Characterising pathogen variation’ by David Cooke at SCRI. The databases and website will be implemented by Jens Hansen at DIAS in Denmark.
The implementation of integrated control of late blight with reduced inputs of fungicides would benefit if durable blight resistance was more common in commercial potato cultivars. Many sources of resistance exist in wild, primitive and developed cultivars but the nature of that resistance is often poorly understood. This project will use collective expertise, compare existing practices and hence suggest new and standardised screening procedures to allow such rational and objective comparisons of genetic resources.
The available European data on host resistance is fragmented and often the methods used to collect this data are not well documented. We aim to collate the available data into a harmonised and readily accessible database so as to allow breeders and geneticists to compare or exploit sources of resistance in their breeding programmes.
In an industry striving towards reduced or even zero inputs of agrochemicals the ongoing monitoring of blight populations is an essential tool in the effective deployment of host resistance. The effective deployment of resistant commercial cultivars creates a “moving target” for P. infestans, but such a strategy can only be effective if we understand the existing pathogen population structure and can predict its ongoing evolution. Studies to date have focussed on national isolate collections and a comprehensive pan-European assessment of blight populations is lacking; e.g. there has been no estimate of metapopulation size of P. infestans across Europe. In the U.S.A., a standardised naming system for strains on the basis of molecular (RG57 and mtDNA) and phenotypic data was adopted. This has proved useful in following the distribution of strains and hence monitoring of the US blight population structure. Sexual reproduction is blurring the boundaries between such well-defined strains and a raft of new co-dominant markers need to be applied to meet this challenge. Ideally, such markers will be appropriate for the analysis of isolates of diverse origin. There is clear need for European standardisation and a dissemination process that will foster international collaboration firstly between European labs and then on a global scale.
The collation of such molecular marker data (RFLP, AFLP SSR and SNP) with information on aggressiveness and virulence, mating type (thus likely frequency of sexual reproduction) and fungicide resistance is a fundamental aim of the project. This will allow us to determine the mechanisms and tempo of genetic change within populations as well as to determine the spatial distribution and patterns of migration of Late Blight populations across Europe.
Dissemination and Collaboration
The proposed project aims to collaborate closely with other relevant EU funded projects, with CEEM, FAS, and importantly with GILB to establish global collaborations. Updates on the progress of the project will be posted regularly in the GILB newsletter and we shall establish a comprehensive European and worldwide list of contacts of anyone and everyone with an interest in Late blight. Project results and details of meetings will be freely available via the project website.