El hallazgo permitirá entender cómo funciona la papa, un valioso miembro de la familia de las solanáceas, para identificar genes fundamentales que puedan perfeccionar el rendimiento y la sanidad, así como los aspectos nutricionales e industriales de la producción. Al mismo tiempo, el descubrimiento podría revolucionar tanto los programas de mejoramiento genético como la manera de explorar la diversidad del germoplasma.
«El INTA Balcarce ha participado en este proceso dentro de un consorcio internacional, creado por la Universidad de Wageningen y del cual participamos distintas instituciones», explicó Sergio Feingold, director del Laboratorio de Agro-Biotecnología de esa unidad y referente institucional del proyecto. Ese laboratorio contribuyó con la secuenciación parcial del cromosoma 3, la secuencia completa de la mitocondria y con la construcción de un mapa genético que identifica la localización de todos los fragmentos secuenciados por los socios del consorcio.
El consorcio de secuenciación del genoma de la papa comenzó este trabajo en 2006 y hoy, adelantándose un año a su programa, dio a conocer el primer borrador del genoma ensamblado. Ese documento se actualizará en los próximos meses a medida que se generen datos adicionales, incluyendo la anotación de los genes, identificación del transcriptoma y análisis de genes críticos a la producción de papa. De acuerdo con Feingold, «el acceso a esta información ayudará a los científicos en el mejoramiento de la productividad, la calidad, valor nutricional y resistencia a los patógenos de nuevas variedades».                                                                                                                                                Consultado acerca de los beneficios que implica semejante logro, Feingold detalló: «Vamos a poder identificar a todos los genes presentes en el genoma de la papa. Y esto trae muchas promesas: poder identificar aquellos genes relacionados con una mayor productividad, o productividad bajo condiciones de estrés, especialmente importante es lo que se refiere a sequía o altas temperaturas». 

Y más importante aún es que, como indicó el especialista, los mejoradores de papa podrán acortar los 10 o 12 años actualmente necesarios para obtener nuevas variedades.

Por otra parte, al contar con el «catálogo completo» de los genes que tiene la papa, la comunidad científica podría -por ejemplo- «mejorar la capacidad nutricional o conseguir mayor productividad, si bien eso es más difícil porque no están definidos los genes de productividad, pero sí podemos saber cuáles son los genes de resistencia a sequía que están definidos en otros cultivos», explicó Feingold.
En este sentido, destacó que «la papa es como la prima hermana del tomate y posee muchos genes parecidos, al igual que con otras solanáceas -tabaco, pimiento, berenjena-. O sea que la información puede traer beneficios extendidos a otras especies».                                                                                                                                                               Uno de los potenciales trabajos de investigación que se abrirán a partir del hallazgo estará ligado a la resistencia a enfermedades, «en vencer la resistencia bacteriana. También tenemos que pensar en la calidad nutricional o mejorar el producto desde el punto de vista de las necesidades de la industria», como la utilización del almidón como sustituto de los plásticos.
Sin dudas, uno de los ejes de la futura investigación estará sustentado en la búsqueda de resistencia a sequía. «Hoy podemos regar la papa pero el costo del agua de riego

cada vez va a ser mayor», reconoció Feingold.

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