BREEDING AND GENETICS The Canadian Potato Genetic Resources lab is essential to ongoing and future potato research. by Madeleine Baerg GENE LIBRARY KEEPS POTATOES ALIVE I nside Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) high tech Canadian Potato Genetic Resources (CPGR) lab in Fredericton, N.B., hundreds of small glass test tubes contain vital keys to Canada’s potato growing future. The gene bank – a living library of almost 180 potentially high-value potato breeding lines – is an important component of Canada’s ongoing potato research, proof of our commitment to global food security, and our last line of defence against potato disease or natural disaster. The gene bank collection focuses on varieties and lines most important to Canada’s northern climate. It includes both heritage and modern-bred accessions as well as unique genes found in wild populations, in exotic varieties, and via Canadian scientists’ breeding initiatives. “It’s very important to preserve all unique traits for future generations,” says CPGR’s curator, and research scientist Benoit 14 TOP CROP MANAGER/POTATOES IN CANADA | Spring 2018 Bizimungu. “We collect everything that may have traits of interest.” The gene bank’s collection encompasses traits that are recognized as important today and those that may prove vital tomorrow. “We don’t know what is ahead. New emergent pests and diseases, drought, climate change, soil changes, or other unknown changes may come. If you don’t keep your gene resources wide and broad enough, you won’t have the diversity to address those challenges,” Bizimungu says. In addition to preserving priority genes long into the future, the gene bank also facilitates access to genetics for research occurring in the here and now. “The genetic resources collected here are available to any ABOVE: High value potato breeding lines grow as tiny plantlets in hundreds of test tubes at the CPGR lab. PHOTOS COURTESY OF CPGR.