Here, Didier Andrivon Research Director at INRAE, France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, discusses the existential threat of potato late blight
According to Didier, late blight, caused by the oomycete Phytophthora infestans, is a constant source of concern for the European potato and tomato industries. It imposes a severe burden on crop yield and quality, in both conventional and organic production systems and induce massive control costs and severe environmental pressure.
One of the most striking and tragic examples was the Great Famine, which unfolded in Ireland from 1845-1849. As a result of potato late blight, as many as one million Irish people were thought to die of starvation. A further one million migrated to escape poverty and starvation, to North America and England. This was the darkest famine experienced by Europe in the 19th Century – which makes the question of why potato late blight still exists even more urgent.
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