The hunt is on for the new “super potato” that will be able to withstand global warming.
Scientists are compiling a super pangenome to identify genetic traits that can produce the future all-rounder spud.
The team is from Canada, US and Peru, where the staple crop was first domesticated in the southern mountains nearly 10,000 years ago.
Professor Martina Strömvik from McGill University in Canada said that climate change poses severe challenges to ensuring sustainable food supplies around the world.
She said: “Our super pangenome sheds light on the potato’s genetic diversity and what kinds of genetic traits could potentially be bred into our modern-day crop to make it better.
“It represents 60 species and is the most extensive collection of genome sequence data for the potato and its relatives to date.”
A genome is an organism’s complete set of genetic instructions known as the DNA sequence, while a pangenome aims to capture the complete genetic diversity within a species, and a super pangenome also includes multiple species.
The potato is a staple food source for many people around the world and one of the most important food crops globally, after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption.
Ultimately the team want to come up with a superspud that is disease free and drought and frost-proof.
To build the potato pangenome, the researchers used supercomputers to crunch data from public databanks, including gene banks in Canada, the United States, and Peru.
They hope the pangenome can be used to answer many questions about the evolution of potatoes.
It could also be used to help identify specific genes to create a super spud using traditional breeding or gene editing technology.
Strömvik added: “Wild potato species can teach us a lot about what genetic traits are critical in adapting to climate change and extreme weather, enhancing nutritional quality, and improving food security.
“Scientists hope to develop something that can defend against various forms of diseases and better withstand extreme weather like lots of rain, frost, or a drought.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker