Consumers, Trends

Can the potato help feed China, cut pollution, and alleviate drought?

The Ministry of Agriculture’s move to make potatoes an increasingly important staple in Chinese kitchens, including the propagation of recipes that rely on the humble tuber, at first glance might appear slightly odd and surprising. The potato has been an important part of the Chinese diet for at least four centuries, since its introduction to the country by Portuguese traders in the 1600s, but cereals such as rice, wheat, and corn remain the main carbohydrates consumed in Chinese households. To safeguard current domestic cereal production and achieve sustainable agricultural development, adding the potato as a staple could potentially end cultivation of other food crops on land that is blighted by medium-to-heavy pollution. According to a Chinese study, in China the minimum water requirement for potato is only 350mm, whereas rice and wheat are 500mm and 450mm respectively. Therefore, this makes the potato an ideal rain-fed crop to grow in the north and west, where annual precipitation is around 350mm.


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