The Observer on Saturday heralded a breakthrough by a group from the Netherlands who are irrigating their potatoes with diluted seawater. Now why does that sound familiar. Oh I remember. In 2012 and 2011 we conducted trials to find out if seawater can control late blight of potato. And the result? We found that 50% seawater did not damage potato plants growing in pots or in the field. When pots were watered with a dense suspension of sporangia of P. infestans, seawater treated pots yielded healthy potatoes whereas controls with tap water only, had a high proportion of blighted tubers.
Results on blight control from field plots were less convincing but there was a clear increase in yield of potatoes in the treated plots in both of the fields chosen for the trial when compared with fresh water plots.
This work was part-funded by the Potato Council Ltd and by a KESS (Knowledge, Economy, Skills) scholarship from Bangor University and the EU to our student, Lorena Larreon.
Observer Article: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/18/humble-potato-poised-to-launch-food-revolution