Skip to comments.'Whodunnit' of Irish Potato Famine Solved
Posted on 05/21/2013 12:25:13 PM PDT by neverdem
An international team of scientists reveals that a unique strain of potato blight they call HERB-1 triggered the Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century.
It is the first time scientists have decoded the genome of a plant pathogen and its plant host from dried herbarium samples. This opens up a new area of research to understand how pathogens evolve and how human activity impacts the spread of plant disease.
Phytophthora infestans changed the course of history. Even today, the Irish population has still not recovered to pre-famine levels. "We have finally discovered the identity of the exact strain that caused all this havoc," says Hernán Burbano from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology.
For research to be published in eLife, a team of molecular biologists from Europe and the US reconstructed the spread of the potato blight pathogen from dried plants. Although these were 170 to 120 years old, they were found to have many intact pieces of DNA.
"Herbaria represent a rich and untapped source from which we can learn a tremendous amount about the historical distribution of plants and their pests -- and also about the history of the people who grew these plants," according to Kentaro Yoshida from The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich.
The researchers examined the historical spread of the fungus-like oomycete Phytophthora infestans, known as the Irish potato famine pathogen. A strain called US-1 was long thought to have been the cause of the fatal outbreak. The current study concludes that a strain new to science was responsible. While more closely related to the US-1 strain than to other modern strains, it is unique. "Both strains seem to have separated from each other only years before the first major outbreak in Europe," says Burbano.
The researchers compared the historic samples with modern strains...
(Excerpt) Read more at sciencedaily.com ...
If someone wants to start The Old Sod ping list, you can put me on it. My ancestors had to dead with "An Gorta Mór the Great Hunger in the Irish language."
I question that statement. Of course the population has recovered -- they just live outside of Ireland. My great grandfather left 13 children when he died and countless descendants in subsequent years.
Herb just wanted to be a dentist.
I blame George Bush
That is true. Thank God for the Irish diaspora: phenomenal music and red-headed girls
FReepmail me if you want on or off my combined microbiology/immunology ping list.
The Irish have come a long way from the potato.
Now the capital of Ireland is Boston and they eat baked beans.
Last I heard, Tax-chick was running an Ireland list.
Probably not a good idea then to bring a plant which is native to the higher elevations of the Andes, and which is highly susceptible to fungi, to an island where it rains nearly every day and then become 100% dependent upon it as a foodstuff.
This event is what brought the Irish part of my ancestry to this continent.
How much Irish migration was due to the potato famine, and how much was due to British brutality? My great-grandparents, who left Ireland in the 1880’s, said they left because of British oppression. In those days, the British shot Irish for any reason whatever, including being caught worshiping at Mass. They also stole very freely from the Irish.
Tuber or not tuber.
Phytophthora infestans, AKA Late Blight.
I usually grow my tomatoes and potatoes in my back yard.
Last year, both were going gangbusters - but when the weather really got nice and warm, my WHOLE tomato crop was wiped out. Plants were literally falling over and practically dying overnight.
It was Late Blight.
I must have had a good strain of potatoes, because they were unaffected!
This year I decided to separate my Solanum species, most of the tomatoes got moved to a different spot.
My warning to other gardeners is if you see even the slightest signs of it, either destroy the affected plants, or take a fungicidal approach. A baking soda solution or potassium bicarbonate solution does a good job, but you have to get it before it starts spreading!
I think even IF the potato famine did not occur, there would have been a huge exodus of people from Ireland anyway because the British rule made it nearly impossible for the Irish to economically advance. They probably would have left about the same time many Eastern European Jews left for the USA. Indeed, economic opportunity and the effect of several major wars in Europe between 1600 and 1900 drive a huge number Europeans to what was first the American colonies, then the USA.
I suppose it all depends on whom you're rooting for.
babble-on~:” Thank God for the Irish diaspora: phenomenal music and red-headed girls ‘
I think that most of the re-headed girls trace their lineage to “ Eric The Red “ , a Viking and his 14 wives.
The red-head is still a recessive gene.
For Music , Irish style dance and the uilleann pipes (Irish/Celtic bagpipes) which are generally played sitting down.
All my children have red hair , and are fair complected , so every summer , I heavily invest in sunscreen
If the potato hadn’t come to Europe the subsequent development wouldn’t have been possible because the population couldn’t have been supported by the cultivation of grains alone.
The Irish used cuttings and grew a very narrow range of potato types. The Andean Indians grew >2500 types and used seeds.
Ireland could have never supported the population it had with any other crop. My ancestors would have then had to leave much earlier.
You will like the movie, The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
It portrays British brutality against the Irish.
RayChuang88 ~:” I think even IF the potato famine did not occur, there would have been a huge exodus of people from Ireland anyway because the British rule made it nearly impossible for the Irish to economically advance.”
British rule was ( and is ) resented by most Irish descendants , even to this day.
This also is why the IRA (Irish Republican Army) recieved so much support in the homeland as well as in the USA.
In many an Irish household , the vernacular term which referred to English control as the “ Bloodey Brits “.
Even the Nazis tried to appeal to Irish independance and ancient resentments by providing money and arms to the IRA,
in an attempt to force the British fighting on the War Front, as well as guerilla warfare (IRA) at home .
Even “An Gorta Mor” (The Irish Great Famine) was blamed on the Brits , since the English preferrred one certain variety of potato
and the Irish planted this one variety when it was struck by the potato blight (think agriculture mono-culture).
Millions died , went into the ‘poor house’, and became destitute. Most died of starvation, or diseases caused by stravation.
The famine was due to politics.
The one thing that always puzzled me was why did the Irish starve when they are on an island surrounded by a sea full of fish?
Just finished listening to a book on this subject, among others.
The problem was made much worse by propagating the potato by planting eyes rather than seed. This means the plants are basically clones.
Since the Irish potatoes were pretty much all descended from a very few plants brought over a couple centuries earlier, you had an entire island planted with a monoculture of almost genetically identical plants. No resistance whatsoever.
More like South of Boston.
Not everyone lived close enough to the sea to fish.
Not likely. 1780s, possibly.
The penal laws repressing Catholics were harsh enough indeed, but they didn't outlaw the Mass nor shoot people for attending.
And by the 1880s almost all the penal laws had been repealed.
Ironically, the Irish population was so large at the time, the English actually were concerned that *any* disaster in Ireland could result in a vast and disastrous flood of Irish refugees to England.
So about the time the potato disease was attacking crops on the continent, but before it had moved to Ireland, a parliamentary committee decided that steps should be taken to ease passage of the Irish to America, and anywhere other than England.
At the time, the Irish population was over 8 million, with an estimated 1 million dying of disease and famine, and another 1 million migrating to other countries. A census right after the famine revealed 6.5 million, which reveals that population continued to increase *during* the famine, (explained biologically because starvation actually increases fertility.)
But after the famine, the population continued to decline, to about 4.4 million in 1911. Today the Irish population is about 4.8 million.
Importantly, how the disease struck was important, because the potato crop was still being harvested, but the potatoes were stored in pits, and it was during this storage the disease would rapidly spread through the potatoes, turning them into an inedible black pulp.
There were two types of Irish. Green and Orange. The Orange owned most of the land. The Green were mostly tenant farmers of five acres or less. Not enough land to raise livestock and only enough to grow potatoes. There was little industry to find work and no land to own. Essentially there was no future for the Green at all in Ireland with or without the British help. My grandparents all left Ireland between 1905 and 1915. All as children two of them were orphans.
What complete and utter bullshit.Do you think thats all the Irish lived on was spuds?
The famine is a myth created by the brits to cover up the starvation of millions of Irish people to feed their colonies overseas.
It’s common practice among potato growers to grow next years crop from last years remaining tubers. (eyes)
If a potato plant gets to the point where it is flowering and creating new seed pods, tuber production falls dramatically, and existing tubers can get stressed to the point they are not worth a crap.
Now people DO grow them with the intent of crossing them and creating new hybrids (Luther Burbank!!) but in the years I’ve gardened, I never even heard of anyone starting potato plants from fertilized potato seeds.
Remember, potatoes are of the solanum (Nightshade) family, and the possibility always exists that a new hybrid crop could pick up stuff from another native solanum species.
You could end up with some real KILLER potatoes!
Aye, to be sure!
Bananas have the same problem.
The banana republics were developed using cuttings from the Gros Michael banana, on terms similar to that of the Union-Pacific: Railroads were built to plantations with land on alternating sides of the road going to the railroad builder (Standard Fruit or United Fruit). When fungus hit the Gros Michael, they tried to expand cultivation, but the fungus followed.
Eventually cultivation of the Gros Michael was not viable, and there were no bananas available. (Yes, we have no bananas.....). Banana cultivation was eventually restarted with the Cavendish banana, a formerly rare variant derived from Asia. It took more careful handling (boxes not stems), but its cultivation eventually expanded to Asia, where a fungus mutated to affect it. That fungus is now spreading.
Some ancient asian bananas have seeds. Uganda has over 70 species of banana.
The tenant farmers saw a famine. The landed aristocracy saw a potato blight. England bought many tons of Indian corn (Maize) and offered it for very low prices, perhaps as much as they could conceive of doing in those times.
The Irish were not permitted to fish using boats at sea without paying a tax. Some did, and the very nice sweaters with knit patterns on them were how the Aran Irish recognized their dead after they were lost at sea.
After tenants left, or couldn’t pay rent and were forced to leave, many tenant farms were converted to grazing, which took less manpower, and provided more income.
The famine wasn’t a myth. It was a tragedy.
Many different individual flaws, no one of which in itself was enough, combined to create the reality of the famine.
In hindsight we can see it. At the time, it was harder to understand.
There were at least 3 types of Irish.
Green Irish Catholics,
Anglicans, the Anglo-Irish,
And the Orange Scots-Irish Presbyterians.
The Irish were forced to depend on potatoes as a sole source of nutrition because the people who had taken over their lands demanded the rest of the crops they raised.
That is true. I have an Ireland ping list. I even use it sometimes! I’ve added neverdem.
It was a myth in the sense Irish people died of starvation cause of no spuds.What about all the other tuber plants turnips,parsnips and carrots and let us forget the Irish had cows or pigs and sheep.
It disgusts me to this day that the Irish had to leave Eire cause our spuds got sick.
The brits rewrote history kinda like if Hitler had won WW2 the jews would have died from a famine.
Well our population has recovered they just did it in the US.
The potato pathogen has even been rumoured to be involved with certain cases of dwarfism...
The Welsh, Cornish, Scottish, Manx, Breton and Galician populations show a similar distribution ~ albeit without all that UK'ness.
Wasn't just the potato famine did that.
You do? stick me on that ping if it is a low volume ping.Like to hear whats going on back at the old sod.
“An international team of scientists reveals that a unique strain of potato blight they call HERB-1 triggered the Irish potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century.”
That’s a half truth that compromises the full truth of what caused the FAMINE.
What the scientists actually found was what caused the disease known as potatoe blight that destroyed so much of the potatoe crop in Ireland.
However, British imperial politics, not the potatoe blight set the course by which the growing of potatoes dominated Irish agriculture to such an extent that failure of that one crop meant famine for Ireland, where 1/3 of the population was entirely dependent on the potatoe for food and many more were dependent on potatoe farming for income, for Ireland and for export to Britain and her empire.
The famine story is also a story of how concentrated and abusive power in any form leads to a tragedy waiting to happen.
Had Ireland been charting it’s own course, Ireland would have experienced the potatoe blight as most of Europe did at the time, but like most of Europe most of Ireland would have not experienced the famine. Like other parts of Europe Irelands agriculture would have been more diverse.
I’m sure Monsanto can make great use of this! ... I wonder why only natural seeds are being stored in that Norwegian mountain vault?
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