Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2019

Changing-climate resilient and multiple disease resistant cisgenic potato cultivars through genome editing

Project Description

The farm gate value of Canadian potato production is about one billion dollars per year; for USA its much more. Potato diseases, such as late/early blights, scab and wilt, annually cause yield losses of about 15%, and upto 80% under favorable weather; changing climate. In addition, some pathogens reduce food quality by contaminating tubers with mycotoxins and enzymes. Genetic improvement of cultivars is the best mitigation strategy but it is challenging due to sexual incompatibility in potato. The Kushalappa-lab has identified several R genes with multiple disease resistance. These R genes identified in the lab, if mutated or non-functional in potato cultivars (e.g. Russet Burbank and other two), will have the mutated portions of DNA replaced with functional gene segments from resistant potato cultivars based on transgene free genome editing (cisgenic). The mutated or non-functional portions of DNA will be replaced with resistant gene segments or edited to make the gene functional, using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. In future, stacking of 6-8 R genes can significantly enhance multiple disease resistance in these cultivars.

Food Innovation

Increased resistance should result in a decrease in the amount of disease. Furthermore, there should also be a reduction in food contamination with mycotoxins and food quality deterioration by pathogens.


In this project a proof of concept that stacking of R genes in potato enhances multiple disease resistance will be established. In future, stacking of 6-8 genes can significantly enhance resistance and these cisgenic cultivars can be field tested and registered as new cultivars. Enhanced multiple disease resistance, a trait all growers are looking for, would make the growers and public rationally weigh benefits and risks. Various potato industries currently producing the certified potato seed tubers of these original cultivars, can produce the certified seed tubers of cisgenic cultivars and market them to their niche original growers. Technology standardized here can be adopted to improve other crop cultivars around the world.


Prof. Ajjamada Kushalappa

Ajjamada C. Kushalappa obtained his Ph. D. from University of Florida (USA), M.Sc (Plant Pathology) and B. Sc. (Agri) from University of Agricultural Sciences (Bengaluru, India). From 1977-1985 he was a Professor Titular Visitante, at Universidade Federal de Vicosa (Brazil). In 1985 he joined McGill » More Info