back to article Scientists lay bare Irish potato famine blight

Scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of Phytophthora infestans - the potato blight mould which in the 1840s devasted Irish potato crops, leading to the deaths of one million people. According to Nature, Phytophthora infestans is a water mould (oomycete) which "causes late blight in potatoes, consumes and rots the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    sequences that make copies of themselves and jump around

    Genetics could do with some Redcode programmers apparently.

  2. James 47

    ...would genetically engineer resistance

    He'd do that for free would he? Would he also genetically engineer the reproductive abilities out of the plant?

  3. Neil 51

    Pefect excuse to tell this one...

    How many potatoes does it take to kill an Irishman?


  4. s. pam

    Poteen anyone?

    Don't take the brown liquid Ferris, it's lethal. Take the clear or amber potato-smelling liquid!

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    EOS .... for XSS Purple Patching of Critical and Strategic UnderWare/Systems Drivers

    "The researchers discovered that parts of the "unusually large" genome "stood out as being highly variable", or full of "transposons", described as "sequences that make copies of themselves and jump around in the genome". The scientists believe the transposons - comprising a whopping 74 per cent of the genome - allow the mould to quickly evolve to defeat genetic countermeasures intended to stop it in its tracks"

    A Virtual Equivalence and Sublimely Stealthy Singularity of Good , Beta Great ConFickers and ITs QuITe Alien Piracies in Virtualised Mode. Realisation Zones for Virtual Machinery Field Testing on AIManoeuvres in the Live Operational Virtual Environment Meme Stream Teem/Future Memory Tumble/ESPecial Operating System? And a Question requires Thinking for Answering with a Negative No for a Positive Yes. :-)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Bit fucking late though eh?

  7. phoenix

    Potato Famine

    Interestingly as there is a lot of misunderstanding about the Irish potato famine. It was caused by propagation from a few potatoes that were brought toIreland. A tuber or two would be handed on from each crop to another family to produce their own potatoes. As such a single variety was used thoughout (mono culture) and when disease hit took out pretty much the lot.

    A good point to note in an era of increasing reduction in the genetic pool, food crops are produced from. No, genetic engineering will not help here as they cannot recreate the missing genes from a lack of gene pool.

  8. Michael 28

    Right problem, wrong solution.

    The problem in the 1840's wasn't that there was a lack of food... Ireland was exporting food at the time. The problem was that they didn't own it . The introduction of potatoes as a source of food that didn't require level land freed up more valuable land and an increasing viscious cycle developed. It was an economic and social problem , not one of simple disease prevention and control. Think anything has changed today? (Like f~ck it has)

  9. Philip J.F. Quinlan

    Blight resistant varieties

    A Hungarian family, the Sarvari, developed strains of blight resistant spuds that seem highly resistant.

    I've grown Sarpo Mira for two years and, without using fungicides, have avoided blight entirely , quite an achievement when you consider the weather.

    They were conventionally developed, by selection, cross-breeding, and testing so they may fall to a later mutation, as they aren't grown on a commercial scale yet and so phytophtera may not have had a "proper go" at them but they work well for me.

    Sounds like an ad, but if you grow your own, try them 'cos you know you'll be on holiday when the blight warning is given ;)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Not quite.

    There was a huge amount of other food grown in Ireland at the time and it's not as if they were simply fussy eaters. Unfortunately, the English decided that they owned all the other food and sent it all out of the country.

    So really the deaths of 1 million Irish people are on the invading English hands and not the potato blight.

  11. Andy ORourke

    @Philip J.F. Quinlan

    I'm not a gardener (or whatever grow your own food people call themselves) but I tried growing my own spud's this year for the first time (sorry, no idea what "brand") but they were really easy to grow and very, very good to eat.

    Must find more stuff to grow next year :-)

  12. stuart meadowcroft


    Of course it was the blight that was to blame - not the British refusing to allow them access to the rest of the crops that they'd snaffled for themselves...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andy ORourke

    Tomatoes. Gardner's delight. Robust plants, toms taste brilliant.

    Originally heard about them on Gardner's Question Time, which is why, having made this admission, I'm going to be anon.


    Is Potato Historically American?

    Those scientists. If we manage to play it cool, what will the nature look like a hundred years later (the question is, possibly, rhetorical)?

    A service log:

    Jesus> hi, feel myself new here

    Support> welcome jesus, whats your question


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sarpo Mira Not All That Great

    Grown them for the last two years, blight each time.

  16. crypt

    oh a potato ! nom nom nom

    @stuart meadowcroft

    We were exporting a metric assload of food at the time of the blight

    It just was more profitable to sell all the bacon , beef etc etc

    abroad than feed some starving paddys.

    The "famine" was economic genocide so effective that the Irish population has never reached that point again.

    In 1841 it was in the region of 6.5million , today there are approx 4.4million in the republic and 1.7million in the north.(this includes immigrants in the pop numbers)

    To quote Sir Charles Trevelyan in charge of govt relief to famine victims

    "the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson"

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