Context and issues
The IGEPP potato program focuses on the preservation, evaluation and use of French potato genetic resources, as well as on disease resistance and on the development of diagnostic tools for potato pathogens.
With a world production of about 325 million tons in 2010 (FAOSTAT, 2012), potato (Solanum tuberosum) is the third world crop for human consumption after wheat (696 Mt) and rice (653 Mt). Potato has one of the highest yields amongst crops (in tons of fresh weight per ha) and its short life cycle enables up to three harvests per year under optimal climate conditions. Potato is therefore a key crop to help solve problems related to world population growth and hunger, particularly because potato is grown under many latitudes and under almost all climatic conditions (the low altitude equatorial and tropical zones being the exception).
In addition to the need for varieties that fit various market segments (e.g., fresh market, chips, French fries, dehydrated products), the main problems facing potato breeders and growers are related to diseases. Over 60 potato pathogens (including 27 that are on the quarantine list) are of considerable economic importance, and their transmission is favored by the vegetative propagation method of the potato. Therefore, INRA dedicates major research efforts to elaborate control measures against diseases and pests, in particular:
- Phytophthora infestans, that causes under wet conditions. the serious potato disease known as late blight, and is currently controlled primarily through massive fungicide applications (up to 15-20 sprays per crop under oceanic conditions);
- Nematodes (Globodera pallida,Meloidogyne sp.);
- Some viruses (PVY);
- Several bacteria (Pectobacterium,Dickeya,Ralstonia).
Most INRA research efforts on potato are located within IGEPP, on the sites of Le Rheu and Ploudaniel.
- To develop new potato genotypes with increased resistance to pathogens and/or pests (Phytophthora infestans, nematodes, bacteria, viruses) and characterize the main genetic determinants of plant/pathogens interactions.
- To develop sustainable control strategies against pathogens or pests (identification of pathogens or pests, better understanding of pathogens and pests biology and population genetics, analysis of the durability of disease resistance).
- To conceive competitive and sustainable crop production systems (development of multi-resistant varieties, modelling, development of low- or no- pesticide strategies).
- To develop better diagnostic tools to help improve the quality of potato seeds (within the Joint Technology Unit INNO- PLANT, set up in 2012 together with the French Potato Seed Growers Federation)
Forty-three persons are involved in potato research at IGEPP, including 33 INRA employees and 10 persons employed by professionnal organisations of the seed potato sector (FN3PT and GNIS). These 43 persons split into 21 researchers, engineers and assistant engineers and 22 technicians. Seventeen persons are located at Ploudaniel, and 26 at Le Rheu. All have access to the infrastructures and services available at Le Rheu and Ploudaniel, as well as to the INRA experimental units close to IGEPP (UE La Motte and UE RGCO).
Employees involved in potato research at IGEPP belong to three research teams: Biodiversity and Polyploidy (BP) which maintains and characterizes genetic resources; Resistance and Adaptation (RA) which focuses on pathogens/pests, plant resistance and epidemiology; and on viruses and their vectors.
The Jointy Technology Unit (UMT: Unité mixte technologique) InnoPlant was established in 2012 by the FN3PT and INRA to strengthen collaborations and increase competitiveness of the French seed potato industry. The unit is located within IGEPP (Le Rheu and Ploudaniel). For some activities, it is also associated to GNIS (Groupement National Interprofessionnel des Semences et plants) and ACVNPT (Association de Créateurs de Variétés Nouvelles de Pomme de Terre). Its ambition is to become a reference structure for R&D in seed potato in Europe.
It is based on a program that associates research, development, foresight and transfer along four major themes that are crucial for competitiveness of the seed potato industry:
- Seed health. In a context of eco-environmental constraints, we focus on characterization and epidemiology of major and emerging parasites, and development of innovative detection and control methods;
- Breeding for durable genetic resistances against pests;
- Integrated Pest Management;
- Investigation of economic strategies to increase competitiveness of the plant industry in Europe and elsewhere and answer users demand.