Friday, May 24, 2013

Irish Potato Famine's Mystery Killer Found

And his name is Herb. The Irish potato famine of 1845 is making headlines as there has been a breakthrough in the type of infestation that caused this crop failure which killed nearly 1 million people. Scientist's ability to sequence the plant's genome from the preserved samples opens the door for future research of plant disease around the world.

The infestation infects the plant through its leaves, leaving behind shriveled, inedible tubers. After sequencing the genome it is concluded that the infestation is from the previously unknown, HERB-1. Likely originating in Mexico's Toluca Valley, HERB-1 is now extinct. It wasn't until the 20th century that improvements in crop breeding yielded potato varieties that proved resistant to HERB-1.

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