Teagasc and IPM Potato Group have recently released a new potato variety which is resistant to potato cyst nematode (PCN).
PCN is an economically devastating soil pest which can destroy potato crops.
Buster is a new ware or prepark variety and is resistant to both species of PCN.
Its speed of development was greatly assisted by new genomic identification capabilities.
Dan Milbourne spoke at this week’s National Tillage Conference about the work of the Virtual Irish Centre for Crop Improvement (VICCI).
He explained that Buster combines PCN-resistant genes from five parents.
Combining five genes is challenging and using conventional breeding methods may have taken up to 30 years.
However, the variety was achieved using a genomic approach called marker assisted selection (MARS).
This allowed breeders to identify which parents to combine in order to achieve the high level of resistance, shortening the development time to 10 years.
PCN is a devastating soil pest which can result in severe potato crop losses.
It is commonly referred to as eelworm and in infested soils, just one shovel full of soil can contain 1,000,000 nematodes.
PCN eggs hatch and multiply rapidly in the presence of a suitable host, resulting in significant yield reductions.
The challenge with PCN is its legacy effect. PCN eggs can lay dormant in soil for up to 25 years and then hatch when potatoes are planted.
PCN falls under strict legislation in Ireland.
If land tests positive for PCN, the landowner is issued with a ‘potato cyst nematode prevention notice’.
This means they are prohibited from growing potatoes or other listed host crops and must wait a minimum of six years before retesting.
PCN is a significant problem in the UK and a growing problem in Ireland.
Between 2013 and 2016, 20% of land sampled here for PCN tested positive.
Traditional methods of control include long rotations, chemical and biofumigant treatment and the use of trap crops.
However, now growers have a new integrated pest management tool in their toolbox.