Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 26, pp 21434–21444 | Cite as

Environmental risk assessment of blight-resistant potato: use of a crop model to quantify nitrogen cycling at scales of the field and cropping system

  • Mark W. Young
  • Ewen Mullins
  • Geoffrey R. SquireEmail author
Research Article


Environmental risk assessment of GM crops in Europe proceeds by step-wise estimation of effect, first in the plant, then the field plot (e.g. 10–100 m−2), field (1000–10,000 m−2) and lastly in the environment in which the crop would be grown (100–10,000 km2). Processes that operate at large scales, such as cycling of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), are difficult to predict from plot scales. Here, a procedure is illustrated in which plot scale data on yield (offtake) and N inputs for blight resistant (both GM and non-GM) and blight-susceptible potato are upscaled by a model of crop resource use to give a set of indicators and metrics defining N uptake and release in realistic crop sequences. The greatest potential damage to environment is due to loss of N from the field after potato harvest, mainly because of the large quantity of mineral and plant matter, high in N, that may die or be left in the field. Blight infection intensifies this loss, since less fertiliser N is taken up by plants and more (as a proportion of plant mass) is returned to the soil. In a simulation based on actual crop sequences, N returns at harvest of potato were raised from 100 kg ha−1 in resistant to 150 kg ha−1 in susceptible varieties subject to a 40% yield loss. Based on estimates that blight-resistant types would require ~20% of the fungicide applied to susceptible types, introduction of resistant types into a realistic 6-year cropping sequence would reduce overall fungicide use to between 72 and 54% depending on the inputs to other crops in the sequence.


GM Cisgenic Potato Late blight Crop model Phytophthora infestans Carbon Nitrogen Biogeochemical Pesticide Environmental risk assessment 



This is publication No. 27 produced within the framework of the project Assessing and Monitoring the Impacts of Genetically Modified Plants on Agro-ecosystems (AMIGA), funded by the European Commission in Framework Programme 7, Theme KBBE.2011.3.5-01.

Supplementary material

11356_2017_9769_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (249 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 248 kb).
11356_2017_9769_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (560 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 559 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark W. Young
    • 1
  • Ewen Mullins
    • 2
  • Geoffrey R. Squire
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Ecological SciencesJames Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  2. 2.Teagasc Crops, Environment and Land Use ProgrammeOak Park Crops Research CentreCarlowIreland

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