Late blight: Action plan for an effective response to a global threat

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In the context of global poverty and food security, two sister crops, potato and tomato, play an important and increasing role in alleviating human suffering. However, production of each crop is limited by the disease “late blight” caused by the virtually ubiquitous and highly aggressive plant pathogen, Phytophthora infestans. Late blight causes severe direct losses and leads to dependency on pesticides, bringing into question the sustainable use of these crops in many situations. Yet, much of the devastation and pesticide dependency caused by late blight can be avoided.
In the last decade a number of new technologies and approaches have been developed that would permit a much more economic and ecological approach to managing the disease. These technologies cover the host plant resistance, capacity to monitor pathogen evolution, methodologies for improving farmer capacity for late blight management, and improved data management and IT that would allow for a more standardized and concerted eff ort among late blight workers.
The purpose of this paper is to summarize what is known about late blight and give direction for what needs to be done. Five specifi c actions are recommended:
ACTION 1. Get resistant cultivars to farmers
ACTION 2. Improve farmer disease management capacity
ACTION 3. Know the enemy and develop a community of skilled pathogen monitors
ACTION 4. Develop ecologically-based approaches to control late blight
ACTION 5. Coordinate and monitor progress

Greg Forbes
International Potato Center CIP