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Project Seeks Potatoes Resistant to Climate Change

Potatoes (Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

(Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

Spain’s Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development (Neiker-Tecnalia) is leading an international project to find potatoes tolerant of climate change and develop new potato varieties as needed. The potatoes should be suitable for growing under adverse environmental conditions, and help ensure their supply in the least favorable regions of the world.

The potato is being affected by climate change and its effects: extreme climate events and the expansion of pests and diseases. This situation is especially serious in those countries where the potato is the staple food of the population and one of the pillars of their economic and social infrastructure.

To meet this problem, a consortium has been established of groups from seven countries — all specialists in potato research — Spain, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay. Neiker-Tecnalia was chosen to lead this initiative. The project has a budget of EUR 743,000 (USD 1.08 million), financed by the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology from the Interamerican Development Bank and other participating institutions.

The most urgent objective of the project is to identify existing potato varieties that can best resist the consequences of climate change. That involves selecting varieties that respond well under conditions of drought, and extremes of cold and heat, and show resistance to the disease Late Blight affecting potatoes. This same profile is also sought for the development of new varieties.

The availability of suitable potato varieties to withstand adverse environmental conditions will help guarantee the supply of food in deprived zones, mainly in South America. It should also improve competitiveness of potato cultivation, increase their growing area and diversify agricultural production. Growing suitable potato varieties is expected as well to boost the income of small farmers and increase their quality of life.

For the new varieties, potatoes that require less water will contribute to saving water, which in many places is becoming a precious and increasingly scarce natural resource. Likewise, potato varieties which are resistant to diseases such as late blight will help reduce the use of fungicides.

Read more: Study Highlights Crop Regions At Risk from Climate Change

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