Author: Liam Taylor
In a living museum tucked away in the Peruvian Andes agronomists working with the humble potato may play an important role in feeding the world.
The Potato Park (El Parque de La Papa) is a 90 square kilometre area in Cusco that ranges in altitude from 3,400 to 4,900 metres above sea level. The park is essentially a living laboratory of potato diversity and is home to almost 1,400 varieties of the root vegetable, almost all of which are native to South America. These native strains come in every colour and texture, often looking and acting very differently to those we buy in the supermarket.
In a world becoming more and more affected by climate change, working with native strains of vegetables could be a key element of preserving food security in the future. Mono-crop plantations, where only one strain of a particular vegetable is grown, are far more susceptible to changes in growing conditions and pests than farms that integrate a variety of plants and strains.
In Peru and other mountainous areas of South America where the potato was first domesticated, a warming climate is encouraging pests to venture into higher altitudes. In turn, this is forcing farmers to sow their crops at higher altitudes to avoid loss of yield.
This has given agronomists at the Potato Park reason to conduct tests on how resistant native varieties of potato are to frost, hail, intense sunlight and pests such as weevils. This not only provides important information to local potato farmers, but with the crop now grown on every continent except Antarctica could be crucial to fighting insecurity elsewhere.
Already, the Peru-based International Potato Centre is using key insights from the Potato Park to farmers in Asia and Africa fight hunger and generate income.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.
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