Breeding potatoes for resistance to bacterial blight in Brazil: a quick review in face of a more effective screening protocol
ABSTRACT Bacterial wilt (BW), caused by Ralstonia solanacearum, is one of the most important diseases of potato (Solanum tuberosum subsp. tuberosum) in Brazil and the main cause of rejection of fields for tuber seed certification. Genetic resistance is not a feasible control currently since no commercially-appealing BW resistant cultivars are available. The development of resistant cultivars is challenging due to the genetic complexity of resistance, pathogen variability, lack of resistance sources in the species, and the tetraploid background of the crop. In addition, to date, only field selection has been effective in identifying stable resistance in progenies derived from crosses involving resistant wild relatives. Field selection is laborious and demands uniformly infested fields. After many years of germplasm breeding, we succeeded in developing two resistant clones, MB-03 and MB9846-01, both producing tubers with rather reasonable characteristics. These clones are being crossed with elite genotypes. To speed up progeny evaluation, we developed a straightforward screening protocol in greenhouse conditions, based on selection at the seedling stage. The methodology is presented and discussed here. Briefly, the early selection was very effective to screen a large number of seedlings in a rather short period of time. It considerably increased the rates of selection of resistant clones in the field when compared to selection directly in the field, without the prior greenhouse seedling stage. Nevertheless, field selection remains crucial for confirming resistance, testing for genotype-environment interaction and evaluating agronomic and tuber characteristics. Among the resistant clones previously identified in our program, progenies of clone MB9846-01 resulted in higher selection indexes in the field (BW resistance + tuber characteristics) than those of clone MB-03 when both clones were crossed with the susceptible cultivar Baraka. We adjusted the protocol to allow screening around 5,000 seedlings per year, counting with eight part-time workers, four in the laboratory/screenhouse and four in the field in critical periods.