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The New Potato

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The New Potato

Breeders seek a breakthrough to help farmers facing an uncertain future

Science,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Potatoes alleviate hunger for millions, but climate change threatens their existence.


Editorial Rating

8

Qualities

  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging

Recommendation

The ubiquitous potato, a worldwide food staple, suffers from climate change and growing human populations. As developing countries increasingly depend on tubers for nutrition security, researchers work to develop strains resistant to drought, heat, disease and bug infestations. The lengthy process includes a mix of traditional breeding and genetic manipulation. Scientists cross standard varieties with wild potatoes containing desirable new traits, often discovered in remote locations. Can potatoes contribute to solving world hunger?

Summary

More than a billion people use potatoes as a food staple, but demand exceeds supply in some regions.

World demand for potatoes continues to grow because they are nutritious, versatile and can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling. However, climate change has made it difficult for many people to grow potatoes.

Developing countries such as Uzbekistan and Bangladesh increasingly depend upon tubers as an important food source, but creating hardy new varieties that yield sufficient harvests takes more than a decade.

Potato breeding requires collecting wild species in remote corners of the world.

About the Author

Erik Stokstad is a reporter for Science magazine, covering environmental issues and research.


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