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The Blight of the Lowly Potatoe — Could It Happen Again?







Today, there is no shortage of food to feed the world, but out of the 7 billion people living today about 800 million are starving to death. The problem is not with Earth's biomass of plant and animal life. At no time in history has man produced so much food. The problem is with storage and distribution of the food that agriculture produces. Twenty percent of what is grown, never makes it to the table.



The Lowly Potatoe




Potatoe, potato, both words for a root crop. Discovered in the Andes by the Spaniards, where it has grown for over 7,000 years, with more than several hundred varieties, but today about 25 are commercially grown on a grand scale around the world. The potatoe scientists are amazed just how well the lowly yam adapts to different growing environmental conditions, able to grow and thrive anywhere on earth, even in green houses in Antarctica.



Some varieties can be grown in the desert, requiring little water, others can grow at cold temperatures, high in the mountains where vegetation barely exists. They grow fast, from planting to harvest in less than two months, therefore needing a shorter growing season. One acre of potatoes yields produce two to four times more than rice, maize (corn), or wheat. Corn is basically grown for livestock to eat, (but we do have the occasional Peaches and Cream varieties we do eat), where rice and wheat are basically eaten by humans. 



The potatoe, unfortunately is vulnerable to blight, Phytophthora Infestans. It happened in Ireland (Irish Potatoe Famine) beginning in 1845 and lasting six years, where the potatoe was supreme. It wiped out 20-25% of the population. Even today, 20% of the potatoes grown around the world are lost to blight.



Late blight remains the potato farmer's greatest enemy to this day Photo: Alamy


Things in general are looking bright for the potatoe! The potatoe scientists are working on developing a blight resistant potatoe, soon to be in a grocery store near you.



So, until then, the answer would be yes, it could happen again, not only to the potatoe crops, but rice, corn and wheat also. Could you imagine if all four suffered a complete collapse and famine  struck? What would we eat, each other? 


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