Prior to this action, the state of the art in the hosting organisation’s potato breeding programme was to apply marker assisted selection (MAS) annually for approximately 20-30 disease resistance traits, enabling early selection for these traits in thousands of breeding lines in the programme. This is an extremely useful tool that has enabled the efficient selection of varieties exhibiting resistance to multiple pests and diseases. Because this relatively small set of traits is controlled by individual genes/loci, it is cost effective to use individual genotyping tests for each trait. However, traits such as fry colour, which are controlled by the action of many genes simultaneously, remain out of reach in terms of genotyping, because of the difficulty in identifying all beneficial gene variants and the cost of developing genetic markers to track them (Genomic Selection, or GS). Conversely, because PotatoMASH efficiently surveys genetic variation throughout the potato genome, it can simultaneously diagnose the presence of all of the target disease and pest resistance genes, and track variation associated with genes beneficial for more complex traits including fry colour and many other important traits. Therefore, the breeding programme can now move beyond MAS and begin to implement GS breeding strategies, and PotatoMASH can be implemented as a single low-cost, genotyping platform that will allow routine and simultaneous application of both MAS and GS in the commercial potato breeding programme at Teagasc.
The platform has already shown such potential that it forms a central pillar in several subsequent funded projects, including a successful multinational ERA-NET application about hybrid potato breeding (EU SusCrop Project DIFFUGAT, led by D. Milbourne). PotatoMASH is also the proposed genotyping platform to search for powdery scab resistance as an important work package of another action granted by EU and also Teagasc (Research Leaders 2025 project, ScabEomics) led by the former PotatoMASH MSCA fellow, which is starting in 2021 in coordination with Wageningen University in The Netherlands. All findings and data from this action will be made available via open access publications and according to FAIR principles.