In the future, plant breeders may be able to develop potato varieties that are better able to withstand long drought spells than the currently grown varieties.
This is the outcome of PhD study carried out by Anitha Kumari in March 2011 at Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR.
Kumari discovered huge differences in the ability of potato plants to recover from drought spells. In addition, she also discovered one specific region in the potato genome that harbors the genes that regulate the response to drought of her potato plants.
Potatoes use water very efficiently. A potato plant produces more calories per litre of groundwater than wheat, for example. However, tuber yield decreases rapidly when water is scarce and plants suffer from drought. Kumari's results indicate that it would probably be feasible to develop potato plants that not only use water efficiently, but that also recover well enough to produce high yields after a drought spell.