University of Lethbridge professor gets grant to help with potato research
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.”