In the Andes of South America, the “seed guardians” are working diligently to protect the rich diversity of potatoes, a staple and cultural icon of the region, as Kelly Oakes reports in an extensive article for the BBC’s Future feature. With over 1,300 unique varieties, these potatoes are not just a source of sustenance, but also play a significant role in local traditions and customs.
The Potato Park, situated near Pisac, Peru, was established in 2002 by six indigenous communities. Its primary goal is to safeguard the genetic diversity of potatoes and the cultural heritage of the people cultivating them. The park also serves as a research ground to test which potato varieties can best adapt to the extreme conditions brought about by climate change.
The work taking place at Potato Park is part of a much larger effort to find ways of preserving and adapting valuable food plants around the world as they face threats from climate change, habitat destruction, pollution and plain old neglect.
Potatoes have been cultivated in the Andes for approximately 8,000 years, and the knowledge of their growth is deeply rooted in diversity. The efforts at Potato Park are part of a global initiative to preserve and adapt essential food plants as they face challenges from climate change, habitat destruction, and other threats.
While seed banks, like the renowned Svalbard Global Seed Vault, play a crucial role in preserving crop diversity, in-situ conservation, where crops are grown and adapted in real-world conditions, is equally vital. As the world grapples with the effects of climate change, these guardians of genetic diversity are ensuring that our food sources can adapt and thrive.
Source: BBC Future. Read the full article here
Photo: Credit BBC