Botanically, they belong to a number of different plant families – but they all have underground organs that store energy for the plant in the form of starch or sugar. These storage organs may be swellings on the roots (cassava), whole underground stems or stem tubers (corms) or a portion of the underground stem as in the case of yams and Irish potatoes. Tubers may include sweet potato, yams, taro, turnips, carrots, potatoes and cassava just to name a few.
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- The world’s top roots and tubers producing countries are very diverse because of the crop types that exist within this crop type group. Potato has become the most popular human food source from all of the tubers crop types, expanding both developed and developing economies. In 2005 it was noted by the FAO, that for the first time, production in developing countries exceeded that of production in the
- The potato is a starchy, tuberous plant from the nightshade Solanum family. S. tuberosum is the most commonly grown species.
- Wild potato species occur throughout the Americas, from the United States to southern Chile, but genetic testing of available cultivars, as well as wild species, appear to pinpoint its origin as southern Peru and north-western Bolivia.
- China is the worlds largest potato-producing country and nearly one-third of the worlds potatoes are harvested in either China or India.
- Potatoes are the worlds fourth largest food crop following corn, wheat and rice, and is the strongest performing of all tuber crops.
- The annual diet of an average person today includes about 33kg of potato.
- Potatoes are an essential crop for Europe, where per capita production is still the highest in the world, however the most rapidly expanding markets are in South East Asia where it has a critical role as a staple, cheap source of energy and nutrients.
- Potato plants are herbaceous perennials that grow about 60cm high, depending on variety. They bear white, pink, red, blue or purple flowers with yellow stamens and in general the tubers of varieties with white flowers have white skins, while those of varieties with coloured flowers tend to bear a range of coloured skins.
- Long term storage of potatoes requires specialised care in cold warehouses.
- Due to its perishability, only about 5% of the world’s potato crop is traded internationally, therefore it has a minimal presence in world financial markets and a stable price structure.
- China grows 85% of the global sweet potato harvest annually and in addition to animal food is used for making noodles and for alcohol.
- There are strong growth patterns emerging for the growing of tuber crops in poorer growing regions of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.
- The evolution of cassava in China has come almost full circle from a basic staple to a diversified end-use carbohydrate source of food. This tuber crop type is now extending into Latin America.
- Tubers can grow successfully in marginal areas with few inputs and simple
- Tubers are often grown in conjunction with grain crops.
- Interestingly, bananas are often counted as a crop type within the tubers and roots crop type category.
- The 10 potato growing countries are responsible for nearly 69% of world production. In 2016 these countries were China (26.3%), India (12.4%), Russia (8.2%), Ukraine (6.0%), USA (5.4%), Germany (2.6%), Bangladesh (2.3%), France (1.9%), Netherlands (1.8%), Poland (1.7%). Rest of the World (31.4%)