In the remarkably brief period of 4 centuries the potato has emerged from its native home in the Andean region of South America, and become one of the four major food crops of the world, along with rice, wheat, and maize. This dramatic increase in the importance of the potato was due primarily to its rapid development as a basic food crop in many European countries, from where it has spread throughout the world.
During the past 40 years some significant trends have developed in world potato production. In the industrialized countries the area planted has slowly declined, but higher productivity has resulted in relatively stable total annual production. In the developing countries, the area planted to potatoes has increase considerable and productivity has also risen steadily. Today these developing countries produce approximately 30% of the world potato crop, compared with only 7% just 40 years ago. While potato yields have been increasing dramatically, it is important to note that much of this progress has been due to the widespread and abundant use of agricultural chemicals, particularly for insect pest and disease control. Today, the world’s potato crop receives a greater total amount of pesticides that does any other food crop we grow. If the potato continues to be grown more extensively in developing countries, it would not be practical or economically sound merely to recommend a wider use of the conventional chemical control measures developed in the industrialized countries. We must search for more viable alternatives. What new production technologies must be developed and implemented in order to realize more of the invaluable contribution that the potato can make to the conquest of hunger, while at the same time maintaining the quality of the environment, and conserving our natural resources in a sustainable agriculture?
The data, results, and recommendations presented in this book provide valuable guidelines for evaluation and further experimentation in the fields of potato farmers all over the world. Only in this way can valid potato production strategies be defined and implemented in each of the widely variable environments where potatoes are grown in the world.
We are living in one of the most exciting and critical periods in the history of mankind. The authors of this book have accepted the challenge of providing the multidisciplinary, technologic base for increasing potato production and productivity in a sustainable agriculture. By building on this base, we can realize even more of the potato’s potential for feeding an expanding world population during the next millennium.
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