According to an article published by the Dhaka Tribune, Bangladesh ranks 7th among the top potato growing nations in the world, with an annual production of around 10 million tonnes – two million tonnes more than the annual domestic requirement.

Thousands of farmers who grow potatoes on over one million acres of land spend up to a fourth of their investment on fungicide sprays to fight late blight. The disease damages 20 percent of the total potato production in Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi government has finally allowed its scientists to import two blight resistant (RB) potato varieties, developed at the Michigan State University (MSU), and also agreed that field trials can be conducted with the varieties. Once approved for commercial release, the RB potatoes will become Bangladeshi farmers’ answer to tackle late blight, saving them about Tk. 100 crore (about USD12 mil) on fungicide expenses.      

Dr David Douches, the Director of MSU Potato Breeding and Genetics Program, who also heads the Feed the Future Biotechnology Potato Partnership in Bangladesh, selected the two resistant lines out of the 10 best blight resistant potato lines developed at MSU.

According to Dr Douches these lines have been developed by inserting three blight resistant genes derived from three wild potato varieties – Mexican Solanum bulbocastanum, Argentine Solanum venturii and Peruvian Solanum mochiquense.

He said, “Single gene gives some resistance, but potatoes still require some fungicides while double resistance can still be overcome by the late blight pathogen. But, multiple genes insertion in one potato variety provides stronger, longer lasting resistance.”

Dr Md. Jahangir Hossain, Country Coordinator of Feed the Future Bangladesh, told Dhaka Tribune that they’re expecting the biotech potato lines from MSU to reach Bangladesh by the end of December. 

He said lab and greenhouse facilities, in accordance with Bangladesh’s biosafety protocols, have already been prepared at the Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in Gazipur for the purpose of research and development of the blight resistant Diamant potato variety in the country. Diamant is a very popular variety in Bangladesh.

Source: Dhaka Tribune. Read the full report here

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