On the 42nd World Food Day, celebrated 16 October, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, known as the Crop Trust, as well as the International Potato Centre (CIP) will announce the release of a new disease-resistant potato cultivar.

The disease-resistant potato is called CIP-Matilde. The new cultivar’s resistance to disease will help counteract the threat of climate change and global warming, to conventional potatoes. This will ensure that this vital food crop remains a staple for future generations. The potato is the third-most important food crop in the world, with hundreds of millions of farmers and consumers over the globe depending on it. 

The new disease-resistant potato was developed by farmers, breeders, and scientists in Peru. This was done by identifying wild potatoes with resistance to disease and incorporating this resistance into cultivated varieties. This process is known as pre-breeding. The outcome is a tasty tuber suitable for regular consumption that also withstands late blight. This is an aggressive disease that can destroy a potato crop in a matter of weeks.

Late blight wreaks havoc

Late blight, which is becoming increasingly common due to global warming, poses a serious threat to existing potato crops. The new potato, which has been in development since 2010, should ensure that edible potatoes remain available to humankind in the long-term. At present, late blight costs potato farmers up to USD$10 billion every year. 

“Late blight can destroy everything. It can leave you without enough to eat, to sell, not even enough to use for seed,” said Rolando Papuico, a potato farmer from the Huancayo province, where the CIP-Matilde variety was developed. “I recommend Matilde to other farmers because it produces a lot, the potatoes taste good, boiled, mashed, fried, in soup, and late blight doesn’t affect it the way it does other varieties. I’m thankful to have this new variety because now I don’t have to invest so much in agrochemicals.”

CIP-Matilde was developed by the CIP with the support of the Crop Trust through its Crop Wild Relatives Project, an eleven-year initiative to help agriculture adapt to climate change. The Crop Trust is an international organisation based in Bonn, Germany working to safeguard crop diversity for future generations.

The potato is the third-most important food crop and hundreds of millions of farmers and consumers over the globe depend on it.

It supports gene banks, including the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and pre-breeding efforts around the world. CIP is a globally focused Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres (CGIAR) research-for-development organisation based in Lima, Peru. They aim to deliver innovative science-based solutions to improve access to nutritious food, strengthen food systems, and drive inclusive growth.

“Ensuring food and nutrition security under the stress of climate change means we need to harvest the power of the genetic diversity in our midst,” said Barbara Wells, the director general for CIP and Global Director of Genetic Innovations in One CGIAR. “CIP-Matilde is just one great example of that work – and only the first of many to come.

“Pathogens, pests and weeds can cause major crop losses, particularly in the developing world,” said Benjamin Kilian, co-ordinator of the Crop Wild Relatives Project at the Crop Trust. “By adapting our agriculture to these threats, we can help ensure a food-secure future.” – Press release, Crop Trust ​​and CIP