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Phytophthora infestans (Late Potato Blight, Potato Late Blight)

(Life; Eukaryotes; stramenopiles; Oomycetes; Pythiales)

This fungal-like organism was responsible for the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840's that resulted in about one million deaths and the emigration of about 1.5 million people to other parts of the World, particularly the US. 

Phytophthora infestans belongs to the taxon Oomycetes which includes the downy mildews and the water molds. The Oomycetes used to be placed in the Fungi but are now placed outside this group. Late Potato Blight was the cause of the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840's which resulted in about one million deaths and the emigration of about 1.5 million people to other parts of the World, particularly the U.S. There are now cultivars of potatoes that are resistant to most strains of P. infestans and there are fungicides that can be used to combat this organism. However, P. infestans is still a problem in certain parts of the world where people cannot afford the fungicides and where it has been able to overcome the resistant potato varieties. For instance, in Russia (the world's second-largest potato producer after China), Late Potato Blight destroyed more than 15% of the country's total year 2000 crop. Worldwide, annual losses and fungicide costs amount to about US $3 billion. 

References

  • Anon. 2001. Russia needs help to fend off potato famine, researchers warn. Nature 410: 1011. [Note: there are two errors in this article: (1) Phytophthora is spelt Phytopthora and; (2) it refers to Phytophthora as being a fungus].

 

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