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Monday, October 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

U of I negotiating deal with International Potato Center in Peru

Though Idaho prides itself on its “famous potatoes,” the potato originated and was first domesticated in the Andean Highlands of Peru. That’s why the International Potato Center, known by its Spanish acronym CIP, is located in Lima, Peru. Now, the Capital Press reports, the University of Idaho is negotiating a deal with the center, in hopes of getting access to the center's vast potato gene bank for research. The CIP says on its website that the potato is produced in more than 100 countries and is the world’s third-most important food crop after rice and wheat. Here’s a full report via the AP:

University of Idaho eyes partnering with Peru potato center 

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — University of Idaho officials are negotiating a deal with the International Potato Center in Peru, in hopes of getting access to the center's vast potato gene bank.

More than 4,000 potato varieties that include potatoes cultivated in the Andes thousands of years ago could help solve modern day problems facing potato growers, school officials said.

"If you're looking for new sources of genes to solve potato problems — like late blight, or potato cyst nematode, you name it — that is the most likely place you're going to find those resources," plant science professor Mike Thornton told the Capital Press ( ).

Late blight caused the Irish potato famine, and remains the No. 1 pathogen for potatoes around the world. In Idaho, the discovery of the pale cyst nematode in 2006 was the first detection in the United States of the microscopic pest that can reduce crop production by 80 percent.

Getting access to the potato gene bank at the center in Lima would also boost the school's potato-breeding efforts, Thornton said.

As part of the deal with the center in Lima, school officials would share scientific expertise.

"I think we've got as good of a scientific group as anywhere in the world, so I think we can help them," he said.

Discussions started last year after two school officials visited the center on a trade mission facilitated by Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. It's not clear when an agreement might be signed.

Joe Kuhl, an associate professor specializing in biotechnology, said he hopes to get a special permit to bring Peruvian potatoes to Idaho to isolate a genetic marker for resistance to pale cyst nematode.

That could help future breeding efforts at the school and offer insights the center isn't equipped to handle, he said.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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