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Improving uniformity of potato crops

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Potatoes are a major food crop both in the UK and around the world. The quality of potato crops in the UK has become increasingly important as consumers demand unblemished tubers of a convenient size. Tubers are often infected by several pathogens including the actinobacteria Streptomyces, the fungus Rhizoctonia solani and the plasmodiophorid Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea, which cause unsightly blemishes on tubers. There are currently no reliable chemical controls, or truly resistant cultivars, meaning that cultural control methods are important. Other quality traits such as the size distribution of tubers within a crop, and the susceptibility to bruising are also important to the potato industry. In field trials at Cambridge University Farm I am investigating possible methods to control tuber blemishing diseases and what affect these have on other quality traits. One experiment examines the effects of soil cultivation methods, irrigation rates and seed planting depth. The second examines how soil amendments affect microbial communities on developing tubers. The third examines whether disease resistance can be increased using compounds that induce plant immunity. I will also sample tubers from commercial crops to understand how quality traits vary at different locations of the field and between tubers that develop in different locations in the ridge.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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