How potatoes could become sun worshippers

If there's one thing potato plants don't like, it's heat. If the temperature is too high, potato plants form significantly lower numbers of tubers, or sometimes none at all. Biochemists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universit├Ąt ...

Can sweet potatoes save the world?

Some foods are known as seasonal wonders, making an appearance only once or twice a year when families gather for holiday feasts. Cranberry sauce, pecan pie, eggnog. Sweet potatoes, typically with tiny marshmallows roasted ...

NASA winner demos red berries on the red planet

A team from Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering that designed a greenhouse for Mars was announced the winner of the 2019 NASA BIG Idea Challenge Wednesday at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Improved method to identify salt tolerant crops

Soil salinity is affecting large areas in the world and millions of farmers are faced with decreasing yields and many are even forced to migrate. Dutch scientists (Prof Dr. Gerrit van Straten (Wageningen University), Prof. ...

Researchers discover genes that give vegetables their shape

From elongated oblongs to near-perfect spheres, vegetables come in almost every size and shape. But what differentiates a fingerling potato from a russet or a Roma tomato from a beefsteak? Researchers at the University of ...

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Potato

The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family (also known as the nightshades). The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were first introduced outside the Andes region four centuries ago, and have become an integral part of much of the world's cuisine. It is the world's fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. Long-term storage of potatoes requires specialised care in cold warehouses.

Wild potato species occur throughout the Americas, from the United States to Uruguay. The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated independently in multiple locations, but later genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species proved a single origin for potatoes in the area of present-day southern Peru (from a species in the Solanum brevicaule complex), where they were domesticated 7,000–10,000 years ago. Following centuries of selective breeding, there are now over a thousand different types of potatoes. Of these subspecies, a variety that at one point grew in the Chiloé Archipelago (the potato's south-central Chilean sub-center of origin) left its germplasm on over 99% of the cultivated potatoes worldwide.

Following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century. The staple was subsequently conveyed by European mariners to territories and ports throughout the world. The potato was slow to be adopted by distrustful European farmers, but soon enough it became an important food staple and field crop that played a major role in the European 19th century population boom. However, lack of genetic diversity, due to the very limited number of varieties initially introduced, left the crop vulnerable to disease. In 1845, a plant disease known as late blight, caused by the fungus-like oomycete Phytophthora infestans, spread rapidly through the poorer communities of western Ireland, resulting in the crop failures that led to the Great Irish Famine. Nonetheless, thousands of varieties persist in the Andes, where over 100 cultivars might be found in a single valley, and a dozen or more might be maintained by a single agricultural household.

The annual diet of an average global citizen in the first decade of the 21st century included about 33 kg (73 lb) of potato. However, the local importance of potato is extremely variable and rapidly changing. It remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. China is now the world's largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world's potatoes are harvested in China and India.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA