University of Idaho researchers are introducing genes from a specific plant into potatoes, in an effort to develop spuds that are resistant to harmful nematodes.  The litchi tomato, has a natural resistance to several species of nematodes, which are also known as round worms.  Nematodes can exist in fields for more than a decade, and can be found down to 3 feet deep in soil.


U of I plant pathologist Louise-Marie Dandurand has been leading a team of researchers looking at how the litchi tomato may be able to help potato crops from nematodes.  She said Litchi tomatoes choke off nematodes when they invade.


"It's called localized settled death," said Dandurand. "Basically, that plan just walls off a nematode, so it just starve it, basically."


Litchi tomatoes can be used as a "trap crop" to clear out potato threatening nematodes from fields.  She noted there are some complications using the trap crop method, including a current shortage of Litchi tomato seeds.  Another line of study for Dandurand's team is extracting chemicals from Litchi tomatoes for use in pesticides.


"That is one of our research objectives," Dandurand said. "It's to find out what those compounds are, those chemicals are in the plant. We have some possibilities. So, we're trying to extract those from the plant, and then test them against nematodes to see how it affects it's behavior."


Dandurand's team is also looking at the possibility of either transferring genes from litchi tomatoes into potatoes, or using pathways in potatoes that are similar to litchi plants.  Dandurand said her research is being funded by the Idaho Potato Commission, the Northwest Potato Consortium and the federal Plant Protection Act.


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