130 Peruvian Potato Varieties Cataloged

Published online: Jan 21, 2016 Seed Potatoes
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Scientists are studying potatoes and the people who grow them around the world with an eye toward ensuring potatoes continue to thrive in the face of climate change.

Peru has identified and cataloged 130 different varieties of potato in a northern district where people have been cultivating the tuber for thousands of years.

The new catalog includes the morphology and genetic fingerprint of each variety, along with pictures of the farmers who have passed on to researchers on their know-how when it comes to preserving the starchy plant from generation to generation. This, according to Alberto Maurer, director of the National Institute for Agrarian Innovation, is “evidence that coordination between science and the ancestral knowledge of the Andean communities represents a virtuosic relationship in which we all win.”

“The genetic richness captured in this catalog values the role of the potato farmers in managing the diversity and represents a baseline of the diversity of varieties that can be found in a specific region,” said Barbara Wells, director of the International Potato Center.

The Andean region, birthplace of the potato, has an estimated 4,000 types of the plant, most of which are not available on the market. Incas domesticated the tuber between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago and were the first to explore the potato’s culinary potential. It was not until the 16th century that the potato made it to Europe—first brought by colonists to Spain before eventually finding its way to its more famous homes in Ireland and Idaho.

South American potatoes have inspired NASA, which is conducting experiments in the Peruvian desert with an eye toward cultivating the plant on Mars.

Peru’s many microclimates are responsible for the incredible diversity when it comes to potatoes, each type thriving in different areas. This diversity, however, is delicate and severely threatened by global climate change.

Besides serving educational and commercial purposes, the potato-catalog project aims to record the varieties to promote conservation methods in the face of climate change and combat food insecurity. Last week, the same organizations that launched the catalog secured funding for four studies into potatoes, including the development of yet more varieties as well as monitoring pathogens and irrigation techniques so that the crop might continue to flourish in what appears to be a warming world.


Source: TeleSUR