Univer­sity of Leth­bridge pro­fes­sor gets grant to help with potato re­search

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Heather Cameron

Univer­sity of Leth­bridge pro­fes­sor Dr. Dmytro Yev­tushenko of the De­part­ment of Bi­ol­ogy and the Re­search Chair in Potato Sci­ence was re­cently awarded $23,000 by the Nat­u­ral Sci­ences and En­gi­neer­ing Re­search Coun­cil (NSERC) Dis­cov­ery Grants fund­ing.

“His work could lead to higher crop yields, less crop loss, in­creased food safety and could help point the way to im­prov­ing dis­ease re­sis­tance in other crops,” says Caro­line Zent­ner, public af­fairs ad­viser for the Univer­sity of Leth­bridge.

“By the NSERC rules, the Dis­cov­ery Grant I re­ceived is in­tended for fun­da­men­tal re­search,” Yev­tushenko says. “I will use it to study com­po­nents of plant in­nate im­mu­nity and the roles that nat­u­ral plant host de­fense pep­tides play in dis­ease re­sis­tance.”

Yev­tushenko says the $23,000 will pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port for re­search in plant in­nate im­mu­nity for the next five years. The work in­volves train­ing grad­u­ate and un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents to pre­pare the next gen­er­a­tion of in­de­pen­dent schol­ars and pro­fes­sion­als. The stu­dents in­volved in this pro­gram will be trained in cut­ting-edge molec­u­lar bi­ol­ogy and tis­sue cul­ture meth­ods, essen­tial for their fu­ture ca­reers in academia, gov­ern­ment, and in­dus­try.

“One of the great­est chal­lenges of food se­cu­rity in the 21st cen­tury is to im­prove yield sta­bil­ity through the de­vel­op­ment of dis­ease-re­sis­tant crops,” Yev­tushenko says. “De­vel­op­ment of such plants re­quires deep un­der­stand­ing of all known com­po­nents of de­fense mech­a­nisms, com­monly called ‘the plant im­mune sys­tem’, a con­tin­ual search for new can­di­date de­fense genes and in­te­grat­ing them into ex­ist­ing potato breed­ing pro­grams.”

In ad­di­tion to the re­search that will in­volve use of the grant, Yev­tushenko is also in­volved in pro­grams that fo­cus on potato pathol­ogy, tis­sue cul­ture and bio­chem­istry in the ar­eas that present eco­nomic con­cerns to the potato in­dus­try. Yvet­shenko hopes his work will help grow­ers im­prove potato pro­duc­tion.

“I be­lieve this re­search can help to ad­dress the is­sues of food se­cu­rity and sus­tain­abil­ity of crop pro­duc­tion,” Yvet­shenko says. “Al­though this grant fo­cuses on ba­sic re­search, it will even­tu­ally gen­er­ate knowl­edge that can be trans­lated into ef­fi­cient and en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly dis­ease man­age­ment prac­tices.”

Yev­tushenko has been in­volved in potato re­search for three decades, with his re­search in­clud­ing plant molec­u­lar bi­ol­ogy, biotech­nol­ogy, plant tis­sue cul­ture, and other as­pects. Dr. Yvet­shenko says that he en­joys his re­search and thinks the most ap­peal­ing fac­tor of it is that the re­sults gen­er­ated by the re­search are not lim­ited to the lab only and go be­yond fun­da­men­tal re­search. The re­sults ad­vance ap­plied sci­ence and will ul­ti­mately will help the in­dus­try to meet the world food needs while re­duc­ing the neg­a­tive im­pact of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties on the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Potato is the most im­por­tant non-ce­real food in the world and a key com­po­nent of global food se­cu­rity,” Yvet­shenko says. “Thus, strong fun­da­men­tal stud­ies in potato sci­ence, com­bined with ef­fi­cient knowl­edge trans­fer and im­ple­men­ta­tion of new tech­nolo­gies, are vi­tal for the main­te­nance of Canada’s rep­u­ta­tion as a global leader in pro­duc­ing top qual­ity pota­toes.”

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