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The Irish Potato Famine Fungus, Phytophthora infestans (Mont.) de Bary

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The Irish Potato Famine Fungus, Phytophthora infestans (Mont.) de Bary

The importance of the genus Phytophthora, both to humanity and to the development of the science of plant pathology, has been obvious ever since P. infestans devastated the potato crop in Western Europe in 1845. Its greatest impact was the potato blight epidemic in Ireland (Gregory 1983). In 1845 and again in 1848 a third of the potato crop was destroyed by blight, losses at the extremes of previous European experience. Even more disastrously, three-quarters of the crop failed in 1846. In all, one million people died of famine-related diseases (Clarkson 1989) and up to 1.5 million more emigrated (Alexopoulos, Mims, & Blackwell 1996).

After the initial outbreak of the disease there was a major search for the underlying cause which led to a controversy with one group attributing it to natural causes, such as the weather, and the other group saying it was caused by a fungus (Dowley 1997). Charles Montagne, a retired French army doctor, first described the fungus to a meeting of theSociety Philomatique in Paris ...


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...hattacharyya, S. K. 1993. Late blight of potato. Int. J. Trop. Plant Dis. 11:17-42.

Solar, Peter M. 1997. The potato famine in Europe. In Cormac O Grada (ed.), Famine 150 commemorative lecture series, p. 113-124. Teagasc, Dublin.

Von Arx, J. A. 1987. Plant Pathogenic Fungi, p.19-24. J. Cramer, Berlin.

Zentmyer, George A. 1983. The World of Phytophthora. In Erwin, D. C., Bartnicki-Garcia, S., and Tsao, P. H. (eds.), Phytophthora : Its Biology, Taxonomy, Ecology, and Pathology, p. 1-7. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN.

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