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Exploring folate diversity in wild and primitive potatoes for modern crop improvement

Bruce R. Robinson, Vidyasagar Sathuvalli, John Bamberg, Aymeric Goyer
Genes 2015 v.6 no.4 pp. 1300-1314
biofortification, congenital abnormalities, potatoes, genes, folic acid, stroke, risk, wild plants, staple foods, heart diseases, Solanum boliviense, people, Solanum vernei, Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigenum, cultivars, humans, food fortification, genetic improvement, diet, plant breeding, genetic variation
Malnutrition is one of the world’s largest health concerns. Folate (a.k.a. vitamin B9) is essential in the human diet and without adequate folate intake several serious health concerns such as congenital birth defects and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease can occur. Most people’s folate intake remains sub-optimal even in countries that have a folic acid food fortification program in place. Staple crops such as potatoes represent an appropriate organism for biofortification through traditional breeding based on their worldwide consumption and the fact that modern cultivars only contain about 6% of the daily recommended intake of folate. To start breeding potatoes with enhanced folate content, high folate potato material must be identified. In this study, 257 individual plants from 95 accessions and 10 Solanum species were screened for their folate content using a tri-enzyme extraction and microbial assay. There was a 10-fold range of folate concentrations among individuals. Certain individuals within the species Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigenum, Solanum vernei and Solanum boliviense have the potential to produce more than double the folate concentrations of commercial cultivars such as Russet Burbank. Our results show that tapping into the genetic diversity of potato is a promising approach to increase the folate content of this important crop.