The world’s population is expected to grow on average by more than 100 million people a year. More than 95 percent of that increase will occur in the developing countries, where pressure on land and water is already intense. A key challenge facing the international community is to ensure food security for present and future generations, while protecting the natural resource base on which we all depend. The potato will play an important role in efforts to meet those challenges.
The United Nations named 2008 as the International Year of the Potato to raise awareness of the importance of the potato in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, nutrition, poverty and threats to the environment. The International Year of the Potato 2008 website explains the impact this amazing plant has had on so many countries and how vital it will be to many nations in the future.
Facts about potatoes
- The potato produces more nutritious food, more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop.
- Up to 85% of the potato plant is edible human food, compared to around 50% in cereals.
- Potatoes produce more food per unit of water than any other major crop.
- Potatoes are up to seven times more efficient in using water than cereals. See table below.
- One hectare of potatoes can yield two to four times the food quantity of grain crops.
- The potato is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. More than a billion people worldwide eat potatoes, and global total crop production exceeds 300 million tonnes.
- The world potato sector has undergone major changes. Until the early 1990s, most potatoes were grown and consumed in Europe, North America and countries of the former Soviet Union. Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in potato production and demand in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
- Since the early 1960s, the growth in the potato production area has rapidly overtaken all other food crops in developing countries. Output has risen from less than 30 million tonnes in the early 1960s to more than 100 million tonnes by the mid-1990s. It is a fundamental element in food security for millions of people across South America, Africa, and Asia.
- China is now the biggest potato producer and almost a third of all potatoes are harvested in China and India.
- From 1997-2007 potato cultivation increased by 25% in developing countries.
- Potatoes can grow from sea level up to 4,700 meters above sea level; from southern Chile to Greenland. They are grown in over 100 countries worldwide.
- The potato belongs to the Solanaceae – or nightshade family of flowering plants, and shares the genus Solanum with at least 1,000 other species, including tomatoes and eggplant. However, the fruit and leaves of the potato plant are not eaten. The plant was taken by the Spanish to Europe in the 16th century and quickly spread across the globe.
- Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, making them a good source of energy. They have the highest protein content (around 2.1% on a fresh weight basis) in the family of root and tuber crops.
- Potatoes can have white, yellow, pink, red, purple, and even blue flesh. Yellow is primarily due to the presence of carotenoids concentrations, and the red, purple, and blue colour is due to anthocyanins. Both are antioxidants and believed to play an important role in preventing cancer and diseases related to ageing.
The potato should be a major component in strategies aimed at providing nutritious food for the poor and hungry. It is ideally suited to places where land is limited and labour is abundant, conditions that characterise much of the developing world.
The UNESCO World Water Development Report 2009 shows that potatoes use much less water than other carbohydrates. See sustainability section.
In New Zealand, the amount of water used to grow 1 kg potatoes is less than needed internationally. Yield can vary considerably depending on management, however, on average in New Zealand, it takes 105 litres of water to produce 1 kg potatoes. Source: Plant and Food Research, Lincoln, 2013.
Majority source: http://cipotato.org/potato/facts