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The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum L. The word "potato" may refer to the plant itself in addition to the edible tuber. In the Andes, where the species is indigenous, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were introduced outside the Andes region four centuries ago, and have become an integral part of much of the world's food supply. It is the world's fourth-largest food crop, following maize, wheat and rice.
Wild potato species occur throughout the Americas, from the United States to southern Chile. The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated independently in multiple locations, but later genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species proved a single origin for potatoes in the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia, where they were domesticated 7,000–10,000 years ago. Following centuries of selective breeding, there are now over a thousand different types of potatoes. Over 99% of the presently cultivated potatoes worldwide are descended from varieties that originated in the lowlands of south-central Chile, which have displaced formerly popular varieties from the Andean highlands
History of the potato
The potato was first domesticated in the region of modern-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia between 8000 and 5000 BC. It has since spread around the world and become a staple crop in many countries.
According to conservative estimates, the introduction of the potato was responsible for a quarter of the growth in Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900. Following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century. The staple was subsequently conveyed by European mariners to territories and ports throughout the world. The potato was slow to be adopted by distrustful European farmers, but soon enough it became an important food staple and field crop that played a major role in the European 19th century population boom. However, lack of genetic diversity, due to the very limited number of varieties initially introduced, left the crop vulnerable to disease. In 1845, a plant disease known as late blight, caused by the fungus-like oomycete Phytophthora infestans, spread rapidly through the poorer communities of western Ireland, resulting in the crop failures that led to the Great Irish Famine
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