Why Potato 2.0?
Potato cultivars are bred for highly differentiated market classes and serve as the foundation of the potato industry. This industry needs new cultivars that are resilient to a changing climate, amenable to sustainable production practices, profitable with reduced inputs, and responsive to heightened consumer expectations for wholesome nutrition. However, potato is an asexually propagated, cross-pollinated tetraploid (4x) crop for which breeding methodologies have not changed substantially in over 100 years. Current methods for generating new potato cultivars are genetically inefficient due to polyploidy, resource intensive due to vegetative propagation, and do not take maximum advantage of genomics resources. Consequently, breeders struggle to produce cultivars with improved yield, disease resistance, stress tolerance, and tuber quality.
To address potato breeding constraints, our long-term goal is to convert potato into a diploid (2x) inbred-hybrid crop. New germplasm resources, coupled with improved methodologies in genomics and quantitative genetics, will allow us to reconstruct potato as a 2x crop amenable to breeding strategies analogous to those used to produce elite maize F1 hybrids. This change will accelerate breeding timelines, dramatically increasing the rate of cultivar improvement and the ability of potato breeders to meet the needs of consumers and the industry.