Commercialization of Potato Tuber Moth Resistant Potatoes in South Africa

The potato tuber moth (PTM), Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller) is a major pest problem facing potato farmers in developing countries. Currently, the primary means to control the PTM and avoid major crop losses is the use of chemical pesticides.  Michigan State University, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project, initiated biotechnology research on the development of PTM resistant varieties. A Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner (Bt)-cry1Ia1 gene, was successfully introduced into several potato varieties, including Spunta. Transgenic lines were shown to have complete efficacy against PTM. This Bt-potato will be one of the first public sector developed products to reach farmers in developing countries and will serve as a model for the public sector deployment of insect resistant transgenic crops. The commercialization project includes six components: 1) Product development, 2) Regulatory file development, 3) Obtaining freedom to operate on intellectual property/proprietary technologies and establishing licensing relationships, 4) Marketing and technology delivery, 5) Documentation of socio-economic benefits, and 6) Public communication. The expected benefits of this Bt-potato to farmers and end-users will be increased marketable yield, improved quality, reduced storage losses, reduced post-harvest losses and reduced human exposure to pesticides. Please follow the links below to learn more about our project.

 Journal Cover


Zarka, Kelly A., Ria Greyling, Inge Gazendam, Dean Olefse, Kimberly Felcher, Gurling Bothma, Johan Brink, Hector Quemada, and David S. Douches.  2010. Insertion and Characterization of the cry1Ia1 Gene in the Potato Cultivar ‘Spunta’ for Resistance to Potato Tuber Moth, Phthorimaea operculella (Zeller). J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci.  135(4):317-324

Quemada, Hector, Kelly Zarka, Walter Pett, Gurling Bothma, Kimberly Felcher, Holly Mirendil, Johan Brink, and David Douches.  2010.  Safety Evaluations of the Cry1Ia1 Protein Found in the Transgenic Potato SpuntaG2.  J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 135(4):325–332.

Douches, David, Walter Pett, Diedrich Visser, Joseph Coombs, Kelly Zarka, Gurling Bothma, Johan Brink, Hector Quemada, Kimberly Felcher.  2010.   Field and Storage Evaluations of SpuntaG2 for Resistance to Potato Tuber Moth (Phthorimaea opercullela) and for Agronomic Performance.  J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 135(4):333–340

Poster: Presented at the Plant Biology Meeting 2009, Honolulu, HI

BT Poster