Virginia Tech Contributes to Exciting Potato Research, Starting at the Crop’s Early Origins

In *All, Agricultural Systems by AgIsAmerica

About 8,000-10,000 years ago, potatoes were domesticated for a wild species native to the Andes Mountains in southern Peru. Spanish conquistadors later transported the rugged root-like vegetable across the Atlantic around the 16th century. Today, a group of researchers from Virginia Tech and other institutions have charted the potato’s lineage in order to learn about how it was domesticated and how its DNA evolved over time.

“We sequenced the genomes, or the genetic code, of a spectrum of potatoes native to South America- Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador,” said Richard Veilleux, head of the Department of Horticulture in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture Life Sciences. “You see a rainbow of potatoes on the continent. How they moved and were domesticated has been debated for many years.”

The complexity of a potato’s genetics makes studying them challenging, but this research could really help growers transition into a successful breeding scheme that will produce desirable potato varieties. For example, the potato chip industry is highly selective about what potatoes it uses. The ultimate chip requires the perfect starch content to produce just the right color and texture when fried. The potatoes must also be the correct shape in order to make it through the chipping machines. According to researchers, this type of study will make it easier to breed the perfect potato chip with the desirable qualities.

For more information on potato history and this exciting new research, read more here.


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