Potato fights blight

September 14, 2001

The curse of the organic potato farmer may soon be lifted by a humble purple spud grown by Newcastle University scientists.

The unnamed variety has proved to be almost totally resistant to potato blight, the disease that sparked the Irish famine and destroys crops worth millions of pounds in Europe every year.

Blight has deterred many farmers from growing potatoes without fungicides, limiting supply and pushing up the price of the few crops that are produced.

In trials at the Close House agricultural research station in Northumberland, seven strains of the disease-causing fungus killed normal crops but barely touched the purple potato from Hungary.

Experts from across Europe visited the site this week to see the results, which are to be announced on Monday. The potato will now face taste tests to ensure it is appropriate for supermarket shelves.

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