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In addition, it is important that these potatoes be assessed and used because most of these species are becoming rare in the Andes—phased out in favor of modern varieties, which have undergone vastly more agronomic development. Indeed, some are so close to extinction that it is vital to focus scientific attention on them before they are lost.

However, it should not be assumed that all one needs to do is to gather these Andean potatoes and distribute them to the world. On the contrary, they have grave limitations. Many are grown only on high mountain slopes and may be restricted to such environments. Most seem to be less vigorous and to yield fewer and smaller tubers than modern commercial potatoes, especially when grown under commercial conditions. Most have deep eyes and irregular shapes that make them harder to process and handle in bulk than regular potatoes. Also, many, if not most, have strict daylength requirements and currently yield poorly in temperate zones because they need short days to induce tuberization.

Despite some apparent geographic and daylength limitations, these potatoes have potential for commercial success; the technical constraints to their wider adoption seem likely to be overcome through diligence, conventional breeding and tissue-culture techniques, and the improved disease-indexing techniques now available. They could perhaps usher in a new era in potato cultivation.

Even the low yield may not be inherent. Under the marginal conditions where they now grow, many of these native potatoes are not reaching their potential because of soil infertility, inadequate moisture, poor management, soil nematodes, viruses, and the poor quality of “seed” available.3

SPECIES

Many of the little-known potatoes of the Andes belong to different species from the common potato elsewhere, but one is its ancestral form. This one and seven others are described below. 4

Pitiquiña. Widely considered the most primitive of the domesticated potatoes, this species (Solanum stenotomum 5 ) produces tubers that are long; cylindrical; knobbly; red, black, or white; and small


3 Information from J.S. Niederhauser, who reports that in the highlands of Bolivia, andigena varieties (see later) have yielded the equivalent of 15–20 tons per hectare when there was a source of good seed, plenty of fertilizer, and control of nematodes, insects, and weeds.
4 The scientific names used in this chapter are for identification purposes only. The taxonomy of the potato is complicated in the extreme. No endorsement of one set of claims over another is intended or implied.


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