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Potato late blight under supervision in Europe

Late blight remains the main threat to European potato crops, almost two centuries after its first introduction in Europe. In IPMBlight 2.0, Didier Andrivon leads an European consortium to understand why, despite active research and many breakthroughs, it is still difficult to control late blight with efficient and environmentally-friendly management practices. They think one key to the mystery lies in the genetic and phenotypic structure of the late blight population, and intend to observe them at an European scale and to integrate this population information into upgraded Decision Support Systems (DSS).

Carte de répartition des génotypes de Phytophthora infestans en Europe en 2014. Mildiou de la pomme de terre.
Repartition of potato light blight genotypes.. © INRA, Euroblight
Updated on 05/27/2016
Published on 05/11/2016

Didier Andrivon built the IPMBlight 2.0 consortium, involving eight institutions (academic research, extension specialists and breeders) from five European countries highly concerned by potato Late Blight: France, Denmark, Norway, Estonia and UK. The project, funded under the
C-IPM Scheme and with support from SMaCH, tackles an apparently simple question: ‘Can we develop IPM strategies to durably and efficiently keep late blight under control’? “We face a big challenge, as late blight is still a big problem, at the European and even worldwide scales. So, we have to gather our forces and means to solve the mystery of repeated invasions of this disease”.

A pathogen with fast changing genetic structures

Late blight is caused by an oomycete, Phytophthora infestans, characterized by a strong genetic instability of its populations. This instable genetic structure jeopardizes both the durable deployment of resistant cultivars and sustainable fungicide management. It is therefore crucial to characterize and understand the mechanisms driving population changes for a more durable control of the disease.
Two types of reproduction regimes are already known in Europe. Western and Southern populations are mainly clonal and subject to frequent selective sweeps. By contrast, populations from northern and northeastern Europe are highly diverse genetically, and probably sexually reproducing.
Both situations are problematic for disease control, but for different reasons. The rapid spread of new genotypes in clonal populations favors the fast development of new virulence or fungicide insensitivity, while the high diversity and constant presence of sexual inoculum in Nordic countries generate faster and earlier epidemics. “We still miss the knowledge to anticipate when the next changes will occur and the likely characteristics of the next invasive genotypes” underlines Didier Andrivon. Gaining that knowledge, by linking genotypic and phenotypic information about P. infestans populations, is the first objective of IPMblight 2.0.

User-friendly tools

Pathogen population monitoring allows adaptations in populations to be identified. This information, directly derived from population surveillance efforts, can (and should) then be directly used to inform and modify control strategies. By providing efficient new tools for the epidemiovigilance of European late blight populations, real-time dissemination of monitoring data through the collaborative Euroblight platform, and by building a new generation of DSS combining climatic risk assessment and pathogen population information, IPMBlight 2.0 will provide the scientific bases for informed decision-making and improved IPM blight control strategies.

Portait, photo, de Didier Andrivon. © INRA, INRA

Find out more

Coordinator: Didier Andrivon, Inra, France, didier.andrivon@rennes.inra.fr
Partners: : Aarhus University, Denmark; NIBIO, Norway; Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonia; ARVALIS, France; Association des Créateurs de Variétés Nouvelles de Pomme de Terre, France; Norwegian Agricultural Extension Service, Norway; James Hutton Institute, Scotland, UK.
To know more: http://euroblight.net/research-projects/ipmblight20/

C-IPM project (2016-2018) http://c-ipm.org/