, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 477-508
Date: 10 Nov 2012

Crops that feed the world 8: Potato: are the trends of increased global production sustainable?

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Abstract

Potato is produced on all continents except Antarctica and is the world’s third most important food crop. Potato production has increased dramatically in developing countries in the past two decades, and has now overtaken that in the developed world, underlining the growing importance of potato as a staple food crop to meet the demands of increasing human populations. Potato is also an important source of starch. It has been adapted for cultivation in a wide range of environments and, with the availability of significant germplasm resources, the potential to further exploit its natural biodiversity is considerable. Potato yields vary considerably across the world, with the lowest being in Sub-Saharan Africa; <75 % of the global average and <30 % of the top producing regions. Many factors contribute to this variation, providing targets for improved agronomic practice and a stimulus to improve varieties to increase production in the poorest-yielding countries. The ability to adapt potato to withstand multiple biotic and abiotic stresses is critical to its future growth as a major food source. In current breeding efforts, strong emphasis is being placed on these traits in attempts to better equip the potato crop in a changing climate. The genomics era is accelerating our understanding of the key genes and mechanisms underlying potato development, physiology, water and nutrient use efficiency and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Genomics technologies provide the potential for more rapid, marker-assisted breeding strategies, and afford the opportunity for biotechnological approaches, particularly in the case of major gene resistance to pests and diseases. Continued review of GM policies and regulations, and associated social and political opinions, are needed to guide and determine the safest and most productive routes to potato improvement.