Skip to main content

Applied Biotechnology to Combat Late Blight in Potato Caused by Phytophthora Infestans


Potato is an important crop, grown worldwide. It suffers from many pests and diseases among which late blight, caused by the oomycete Phytophthora infestans, is the worst. The disease is still causing major damage in many potato production areas and control is only possible by applying fungicides frequently. The knowledge on the molecular biology and genetics of the interaction between the plant and the oomycete is developing rapidly. These are relevant fields of study, currently dominated by the discovery of many resistance genes and numerous effector proteins and the analysis of their specific mode of action. These studies may yield essential information needed for the development of durable resistance. The long-term and worldwide effort to breed for resistance so far has had little effect. A novel breeding approach may change this. It is based on cisgenic modification (CM) consisting of marker-free pyramiding of several resistance genes and their spatial and temporal deployment yielding dynamic varieties that contain potato genes only. It is envisioned that this CM approach with potato’s own genes will not only prove societally acceptable but may also result in simplifications in the legislation on use of the CM approach. Various parties in the potato research arena intend to cooperate in this novel approach in a number of developing countries where potato substantially contributes to food security. The use of resources such as land, water and energy improves when the effect of late blight is markedly reduced.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  • Audsley E, Alber S, Clift R, Cowell S, Crettaz P, Gaillard G, Hausheer J, Jolliett O, Kleijn R, Motensen B, Pearce D, Roger E, Teilon H, Weidema B, van Zeijts H (1997) Harmonisation of environmental Life Cycle Assessment for agriculture. Final Report Concerted Action AIR3-CT94-2028. European Commission DG VI Agriculture, Silsoe, UK

  • Birch PRJ, Rehmany AP, Pritchard L, Kamoun S, Beynon JL (2006) Trafficking arms: oomycete effectors enter host plant cells. Trends Microbiol 14(1):8–11

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • de Vetten N, Wolters A, Raemakers K, van der Meer I, ter Stege R, Heeres E, Heeres P, Visser R (2003) A transformation method for obtaining marker-free plants of cross-pollinating and vegetatively propagated crops. Nature Biotech 21:439–442

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • de Wolf M, van der Klooster A (2006) Kwantitatieve Informatie Akkerbouw en Vollegrondsgroenteteelt 2006. Praktijkonderzoek Plant & Omgeving, Wageningen, PPO report 354

  • Haverkort AJ, Boonekamp PM, Hutten R, Jacobsen E, Lotz LAP, Kessel GJT, Visser RGF, van der Vossen EAG (2008) Societal costs of late blight in potato and prospects of durable resistance through cisgenic modification. Potato Res 51:47–57

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green MB (1987) Energy in pesticide manufacture, distribution and use. In: Helsel ZR (ed) Energy in plant nutrition and pest control. Energy in world agriculture 2. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 165–177

    Google Scholar 

  • Jacobsen E, Schouten HJ (2007) Cisgenesis strongly improves introgression breeding and induced translocation breeding of plants. Trends Biotechnol 25:219–223

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Jacobsen E, van der Vossen EAG (2009) Plant disease resistance: breeding and transgenic approaches. In: Schaechter M (ed) Encyclopedia of microbiology. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 597–612

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Jiang RHY, Tripathy S, Govers F, Tyler BM (2008) RXLR effector reservoir in two P-species is dominated by a single rapidly evolving superfamily with more than 700 members. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:4874–4879

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Jochemsen H (2008) An ethical assessment of cisgenesis in breeding late blight resistant potato. Potato Res 51:59–73

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lammerts van Bueren ET, Struik PC, Tiemens-Hulscher M, Jacobsen E (2003) The concepts of intrinsic value and integrity of plants in organic plant breeding and propagation. Crop Sci 43:1922–1929

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lammerts van Bueren ET, Tiemens-Hulscher M, Struik PC (2008) Cisgenesis does not solve the late blight problem of organic potato production: alternative breeding strategies. Potato Res 51:89–99

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Soanes DM, Talbot NJ (2008) Moving targets: rapid evolution of oomycete effectors. Trends Microbiol 16:507–510

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Vleeshouwers VGAA, Rietman H, Krenek P, Champouret N, Young C, Oh SK, Wang M, Bouwmeester K, Vosman B, Visser RGF, Jacobsen E, Govers F, Kamoun S, van der Vossen EAG (2008) Effector genomics accelerates discovery and functional profiling of potato disease resistance and Phytophthora infestans avirulence genes. PLoS ONE 3 e2875

  • Zadoks JC (2008) The potato murrain on the European continent and the revolutions of 1848. Potato Res 51:5–45

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. J. Haverkort.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Haverkort, A.J., Struik, P.C., Visser, R.G.F. et al. Applied Biotechnology to Combat Late Blight in Potato Caused by Phytophthora Infestans . Potato Res. 52, 249–264 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Breeding strategy
  • Cisgenesis
  • Effectors
  • Late blight
  • Phytophthora infestans
  • R genes
  • Resistance management
  • Solanum