The potato program of the International Potato Center (CIP): successes, challenges and the way forward

Dr. Ian Barker began his assignment as Leader of the International Potato Center (CIP) Global Potato Agri-Food Systems Program in 2019.  He leads a portfolio of high impact research and development projects designed to achieve the objective of intensifying, diversifying and strengthening the resilience of agri-food systems with potato-related technologies, contribute to food security, nutrition and rural economic growth in priority countries within the framework of the organization’s sustainable development goals.

Recently, he has taken a leading role in developing models for the dissemination of quality seed of public-bred potato varieties through innovative public-private partnerships in East Africa and SE Asia.

Ian has 30 years of experience in management of agricultural R&D in the public and private sectors. Previously, Ian was the Head of Agricultural Partnerships for The Syngenta Foundation  (SFSA).  Prior to that, he was the Senior Virologist and Seed System Lead at the International Potato Center (CIP); he also worked as the head of the Diagnostic Methods Team, Food and Environmental Research Agency (FERA) in the UK.  A British national, he holds a PhD. from Exeter University and a BSc. In Plant Sciences from Wye College, London University.

Dr. Barker is based in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

The Upotato Plan-genome design of  potato diploid hybrid with true seed

Sanwen Huang obtained his Ph.D. in the Laboratory of Plant Breeding at Wageningen University in 2005 and currently acts as the Director General of the Agricultural Genomics Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

He plays a leading role in international vegetable genome projects, organizing the International Genome Consortia to sequence cucumber, tomato, and potato. His lab also constructed genome variation maps for cucumber, melon, tomato, and potato, which provide a theoretical framework for germplasm utilization. He identified key genes in the domestication and improvement of these crops and develop a multi-omics methodology to understand the impact of human selection to flavor and quality. He launched the “Upotato Plan”, which aims to transform potato from a clonally propagated, tetraploid crop to a true-seed-propagated, diploid crop, using genomic design breeding.


He has published over 100 papers, including in CellNatureScience, and Nature Genetics. In 2015, he was awarded with the Grand Challenge 2015—Young Scientist Award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2016, he was awarded with Basic Science Award from the Zhou Guang Zhao Foundation. In 2018, he was awarded the “Science and Technology Progress Award” by the Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation and the National Natural Sciences Awards of China.

Acrylamide Mitigation Strategies in Fried Potato Products

Vural Gökmen, BSc, MSc, PhD is professor in the Food Engineering Department at Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. His responsibilities include to teach at undergraduate and graduate levels, to supervise MSc and PhD theses, to conduct research projects, and to give consultancy on knowledge and technology transfer in the field of food science and engineering. Prof. Gökmen graduated in 1990 with food engineering degree and gained his PhD degree in 1998. In 2004, he has been awarded as outstanding young scientist by the Turkish Academy of Sciences, and in 2007 he gained science incentive award by The Scientific and Technological Council of Turkey. He has founded Food Quality & Safety Research Group in 2004, Food Research Center in 2010 at Hacettepe University, and The National Food Technology Platform of Turkey in 2011.

In his career, Prof. Gökmen has carried out national and international research projects related to different aspects of food science. He has lectured nationally and internationally. He has continuous collaborations with the research groups in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, The Netherlands, USA, UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Belgium, and Denmark. As one of the leading experts on food science, Prof. Gökmen has contributed greatly to the understanding of process-derived effects on the quality and safety of foodstuffs. Also, he has developed chromatography, mass spectrometry, and computer vision based advanced analytical techniques to monitor food quality and safety. To his credit, Prof. Gökmen has published over 230 articles, which includes over 210 peer reviewed manuscripts based on original research, 14 book chapters, and edited a book. As of May 2019, his publications have been cited more than 5700 times according to Web of Science, and 6100 times according to Scopus.

Prof. Gökmen is currently associate editor in Food Research International and editorial board member in Food Chemistry, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, and Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences. According to Web of Science, Prof. Gökmen is in the list of top 100 authors of the world in the field of Food Science and Technology.

The mission of Phytophthora: explore, invade and manipulate​

Francine Govers is a professor in Phytopathology at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Her goal is to unravel the biology and pathology of Phytophthora pathogens and their interaction with plants. Phytophthora infestans is renowned for causing the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and its impact on world history.

Today late blight is still a major problem worldwide and control depends on intensive spraying regimes, every 5-7 days. In 1990, when Govers started her career in phytopathology, the awareness that Phytophthora is not a true fungus was just emerging. Oomycetes, the class that comprises the genus Phytophthora, evolved independently of fungi. Yet, they occupy similar ecological niches and also their weaponry for plant infection is comparable including the exploitation of effectors to suppress host defense. Nevertheless, there are remarkable differences. In her presentation Govers will highlight several unique features that illuminate the success of Phytophthora species as pathogens. Examples are the massive expansion of gene families encoding host specific RXLR effectors, the counterparts of resistance proteins and instrumental in R gene discovery, and alternative signaling pathways and novel cytoskeleton structures, pointing to potential targets for novel oomicides.

For an overview of publications dealing with these topics visit:

Potatoes in organic farming – perspectives, challenges and constraints

Christian Bruns has been involved with organic farming in Germany, Europe and worldwide for 25 years. His research focused on the optimisation of crop production in organic farming under an interdisciplinary systems approach with emphasis on potato cultivation, the efficient integration of legumes as well as the management of organic matter with special consideration of plant protection aspects. Part of the research therefore consists in the adaptation of control systems for late blight to the specific conditions of nitrogen management and supply in organic farming systems, and the control of Rhizoctonia solani in potatoes.

Potato wart disease management and resistance breeding: a genomics approach

Jack Vossen finished his PhD in 1998 on the fungal model system Saccharomyces cerevisiae (bakers- and brewers-yeast). As a post-doc he moved to study fungal disease resistance in tomato plants; First I-2 mediated resistance against Fusarium oxysporum and later Cf-4 mediated resistance against Cladosporium fulvum.

Since 2006 he is working on disease resistance in potato. Initially, he only worked on Phytophthora infestans and cloned several late blight resistance genes like R8, R9a, and Rpi-ber. Later he also initiated research to study resistance against other potato diseases like wart disease and soft-rot, caused by Synchytrium endobioticum and Pectobacteriaceae, respectively.

His research is embedded in the Plant Breeding group at the Wageningen University and Research. His team currently consists of 5 PhD students and two technicians. He authored more than 60 papers in peer reviewed journals.

Genetic approaches to increasing disease resistance in potato

Jonathan D G Jones FRS is a leading researcher in plant/microbe interactions.  He graduated in Botany from Cambridge (1976) and completed his Ph.D. on cereal chromosomes supervised by Dick Flavell at the Plant Breeding Institute, Trumpington, in 1980. 

Dr. Jones was a postdoc with Fred Ausubel at Harvard University 1981-2, working on symbiotic nitrogen fixation.  From 1983-1988, he worked in the private sector at a startup agbiotech company (Advanced Genetic Sciences, Oakland, California).  In 1988, he became one of the first recruits at The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK, where he has twice been Head of Laboratory.  He investigates plant disease resistance genes and mechanisms, and also how pathogens suppress host defences to cause disease. 

Dr. Jones was elected a Professor at the University of East Anglia in 1997, a member of EMBO in 1998, a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003, and Foreign Associate of US NAS in 2015.  

Selected recent publications

Jones, Vance, Dangl (2016) Science PMID:27934708 DOI:10.1126/science.aaf6395

Williams et al. (2014) Science vol. 344 (6181) pp. 299-303

Sarris et al (2015) Cell 161 pp. 1089-1100

Duxbury et al (2016) Bioessays 38:469 PMID:27339076 doi: 10.1002/bies.201600046

Development of Diploid Germplasm for Variety Development

David Douches has been conducting potato breeding and genetics he has an active potato breeding program directed toward the development of improved cultivars in Michigan for 32 years. The focus of the program is to develop new cultivars for Michigan’s potato industry by integrating new genetic engineering techniques with marker-based and conventional breeding efforts. Key traits targeted for improvement insect resistance, disease resistance to scab, late blight, PVY, and chip processing from long-term storage. A diploid potato breeding effort was established with the goal of transforming potato breeding from its historically conventional tetraploid breeding methods. The key to this process is creating diploid germplasm that is self-compatible so that inbred lines can be developed.  Gene editing of the S-RNase locus has also achieved self-compatibility. David Douches has collaborated with many research programs to train and support SNP-based studies in potato such as QTL mapping, germplasm diversity, pedigree analysis and GWAS. He is the project Director for the USAID Feed the Future Biotechnology Potato Project (FtF BPP) to develop late blight resistant 3-R-gene potatoes for Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Global developments in automated potato storage management

Adrian Cunnington is the former head of the now-closed Sutton Bridge CSR, which was AHDB’s specialist potato storage research facility in the UK. A graduate of the University of Reading, he joined Sutton Bridge in 1984 to work on the storage research programme and oversaw operations at the site until it was closed due to loss of funding in 2021. He was author of the AHDB Potato Store Managers’ Guide. Following the cessation of AHDB’s potato research, Adrian has set up Potato Storage Insight Ltd. He now specialises in the provision of storage systems management advice and consultancy.

Tel: +44 7970 072260


Selected recent publications

Briddon, A., Cunnington, A. & Harper, G. (2018) Post-harvest storage of potatoes. In: Achieving sustainable cultivation of potatoes – Vol. 2: Production, storage and crop protection (Ed: S. Wale) Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing. 360 pp.

Cunnington, A.C. (2019) AHDB Potato Store Managers’ Guide, 3rd Edn. AHDB, Kenilworth. 48 pp.

Cunnington, A.C., Briddon, A., Saunders S.R., Willetts, G.J. & Storey, R.M.J. (2018) Optimising CIPC application in box potato stores. Proceedings Crop Production in Northern Britain, Dundee, 28 February 2018

Peters, J.C.; Harper, G.; Brierley, J.L.; Wale, S.J.; Hilton, A.; Gladders, P.; Lees, A.K.; Boonham, N. & Cunnington, A.C. (2016) The effect of postharvest storage conditions on the development of black dot (Colletotrichum coccodes) on potato in crops grown for different durations. Plant Pathology, 65, 1484-1491.


Memberships etc

Associate of Institute of Agricultural Engineers; BASIS Professional Register (Stored Potatoes); European Association for Potato Research (Chair, Engineering & Utilisation Section, 2005-2011; Co-Chair, Post-Harvest Section, 2011-2014); Potato Industry CIPC Stewardship Group 2008-present (Group Secretary 2008-13; Chair, PICSG Technical Working Grp, 2013–2019)

Potato crop nitrogen status monitoring with spectral sensors : last decade developments and implementation for N fertilisation management

Jean-Pierre Goffart currently works at the Department of General Direction of Walloon Agricultural Research Centre CRA-W (Gembloux, Belgium), as Deputy General Director. J.P. does research in agronomy, crop physiology and crop fertilization, mainly of the potato crop for 30 years. He developed research on the use of spectral methods and sensors handheld or embedded on machines, UAVs and satellites to assess crop nitrogen status to be integrated in Decision Support Systems on nitrogen fertilizers management at field level, also integrating intra-field variability. Different optical/NIR sensors and associated platforms supplying leaf and canopy reflectance and leaf chlorophyll fluorescence were investigated such as chlorophyll meters, radiometers and fluorimeters. The focus was on nitrogen as an essential element in photosynthesis and several plant-growth processes, aiming to help farmers improving the potato mineral N fertilisers use efficiency to improve tuber yield and quality, and to reduce production costs and air and water pollution.

Can marker-assisted selection for drought tolerance in Solanum tuberosum replace selection on yield in arid environments?

Karin Köhl graduated from the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf with a Diploma in Biology in 1992 and with a phd in plant physiology in 1996. Obtaining several research stipends, she went to the Department of Plant Sciences in Oxford and then to the MPI of Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm. Since 2000, she coordinates the plant cultivation and transformation infrastructure facility at the MPI of Molecular Plant Physiology. Her research focuses on drought stress tolerance of crops and data management for phenotyping.