Public Release: 

Potato Famine Fungus Strikes Again Says June BioScience Journal

American Phytopathological Society

ST. PAUL, MN (May 21, 1997)--This crop year, there is good and bad news for potato growers and the industry.

First the bad. "Migrations of virulent and fungicide-resistant strains of the potato famine fungus have worsened a disease that was effectively managed for decades," according to research presented in the June issue of BioScience journal.

The research article is co-authored by Dr. William Fry, immediate past president of The American Phytopathological Society (APS) and professor of plant pathology at Cornell University, and Dr. Stephen B. Goodwin, USDA/ARS Research Plant Pathologist and adjunct assistant professor of plant pathology at Purdue University.

One hundred fifty years ago, one million Irish died and another one and a half million fled from the ravages of the potato blight. One hundred fifty years later, after decades of technology and innovation, the blight continues to baffle plant doctors, plague growers and transform leafy green potato fields into rotted wastelands.

"Late blight can be a remarkably rapid and destructive disease," Dr. Fry said.

There is some good news. Thanks to the efforts of plant doctors like Drs. Fry and Goodwin, growers have several options for managing potato blight. DNA fingerprinting and a simplified enzyme assay developed by Goodwin in Fry's lab at Cornell enabled scientists to monitor the spread of new strains throughout the world. Advance knowledge of strains present within fields allows growers to refine disease management strategies before serious problems develop, and save money on ineffective fungicide sprays.

"The short-term goal has been to keep potato and tomato growers in business until more effective management strategies can be devised," Dr. Goodwin said.

BioScience is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal published monthly by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. It is received by over 5,000 individuals and more than 6,000 libraries and institutions.

Drs. Fry and Goodwin are members of The American Phytopathological Society, a professional scientific organization dedicated to the study of plant diseases and their control. APS promotes knowledge about this specialized science and today is the premier organization advancing modern concepts in plant health management in agricultural, urban and forest settings. For more information, visit the Society's web site at

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